The Surgery Blog

Happy New Year!

Okay … I think we can all agree that the past couple of years have not been exactly what we expected or what we had hoped for.  COVID has, let’s be honest, royally mucked up everyone’s plans, no matter how big or small they were.

Here at The Cambridge Practice, we have been doing as much as we can to protect you – our patients – and our staff; this has included ensuring the Government guidelines like mask wearing, social distancing and hand sanitising are all followed, a new telephone triage system to reduce footfall in the Practice, which has helped reduce the risk of spreading the virus, and even an isolation room during the height of COVID.  We know it’s not been easy for you all – in fact, it’s been very frustrating for you – what with things such as the new telephone triage system and more use of E-Consults, but we want to take this opportunity to thank you for bearing with us as things have changed so rapidly.  Everything we have done, and everything we are doing, is to help keep you all as safe as possible – our goal has always been to protect you as much as we can from the risk of COVID and to keep the stability of a contactable GP Surgery at a time when everything else around us is changing.

Of course, then there’s the vaccine centre, which everyone has worked so hard at to get it up and running and to keep it that way; everyone has contributed something to the centre, from time help to give the vaccines to patients, to the kind volunteers ushering patients around the centre, making us all feel welcome and comfortable – because, let’s face it – vaccines can be hard for some people, so a friendly face greeting you and looking after you during the vaccination process can go a long way.

As well as dealing with COVID, the Practice underwent a CQC inspection, and we are very pleased to say we are rated Good under the CQC rating system.

On 14th December, the Practice was involved in a Patient Participation Group (PPG) meeting, and one of the main outcomes of this was an agreement on the emphasis of the benefits of patient access for booking appointments.  As a patient, you are able to book your own appointment online via Patient Access – to me, this sounds perfect; it enables you to book something that suits you, and also means you don’t have to wait in the phone queue, so can book appointments at your ease, from your own home – even your own bed if you want – no early mornings spent on the phone line, no having to get your brain functioning before 8am in order to sound presentable on the phone … and if you’re able to … no early morning full stop!

On a slightly different note – I don’t know about you, but I find the itty-gritty details of things can be very interesting, and one of the things within the Practice I find fascinating is the phone recording system. In the Call Handlers room, we have fitted a screen that displays several values – how many people are currently waiting in the phone queue (I am pleased to say that when I viewed this screen, there were 0 waiting – how good is that?!), the average waiting time for those in the call queue, active calls (how many calls are currently being answered), the average time spent on the phone by our Call Handlers, the overall number of answered calls (which was an impressive 544 already when I saw the screen), and how many calls have been abandoned / how many people have hung up. It is extremely interesting to see how these values change each day, and it helps the Practice get an idea of how we can improve the service we provide based on the data this screen gives us.

Anyway, I have rambled on enough; the time has come for me to bid you farewell.  I don’t know what the future holds (we can all hope that whatever it holds is better than the past couple of years) but regardless of what happens, enjoy.

My answer comes from the words of Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape.

“After all this time?”

“Always”.

A Letter to our Patients

Dear Patient

The Cambridge Practice would like to acknowledge your feedback and the criticism prevalent on social media regarding long waiting times on our telephone system and difficulties encountered in getting an appointment.

We sincerely hear and understand your frustrations and are working closely with NHS England to try to meet the unprecedented demands we face.

Post lockdown we have been experiencing an unprecedented level of demand on our inbound calls to the practice. Despite our best efforts in opening additional call lines, we are still finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with this demand. Our inbound call data shows we are receiving 8 000 – 12 000 inbound calls per month, averaging nearly 3 000 calls per week.

This does not reflect the increased workload and complexity of direct patient care and administrative services during the pandemic and post lockdown. This also does not take into account our participation in the Covid-19 Vaccination Programme. This increased level of demand is unfortunately not unique to us and is being seen across the country. We are looking at innovative ways, adapting and restructuring our teams in an effort to provide a more effective service for you.

We now all face new challenges. General Practice is not as it was before the pandemic. The pandemic itself has brought new ways of working and challenges that have affected the team humanly and our pre-pandemic structure for patient access. We have developed Care Navigators who are trained to triage and signpost you to the appropriate service you require or our new urgent care same day access service to see a clinician face to face.

It is very important to us that we are open, honest, and transparent with the challenges we are facing as a practice and the increased patient demand.

For calls relating to an urgent medical problem that you feel needs to be assessed or addressed that day, please call from 8am to speak to one of our Care Navigators who will triage and signpost you appropriately.

For calls relating to investigation results or queries about your medical record, you can access this information via the NHS APP online access by downloading the NHS APP and registering.

For calls to discuss your investigations further or book a routine blood test you can contact the practice later in the day or book an appointment yourself if you sign up for online access or do this via our front desk service.

For calls relating to care, you are receiving from a Specialist Team at the hospital, we kindly ask that you contact them directly for support.

We are here, we are listening, and we are working hard to make sure that you are seen to in the appropriate time, by the appropriate person. Hopefully we can work together to improve the outcomes for everyone.

Thank you

The Cambridge Practice Partners

Its Christmas!

It’s officially the festive season, and it is time to get excited! Not only is it “the most wonderful time of the year”, it is also an exciting time within the Practice!

Where to start, where to start …?
Let’s begin with IT shall we? I’m not going to sit here and pretend I am an IT genius and claim I know all there is to know about IT and its significance, because, quite frankly – I’m not, and I don’t. However, what I do know is that we have introduced E-Consult and the NHS App to our Practice. The NHS App, for anyone that doesn’t know, allows you to book appointments online, check your symptoms and order repeat medication – all without coming into or calling the surgery! (Which is great – especially during the holidays – you don’t even have to leave your bed! … Duvet day anyone!?)

Another thrilling venture we are taking as a Practice is introducing “A Day in the Life of …”. Have you ever wondered what it is like working as a Nurse, a GP, a Secretary? Well, wonder no more! In the New Year we are looking at sorting something special out for you all – something that will enable you to spend a day in the life of us – The Cambridge Practice staff! (And I assure you, we are all riveting people with stories to tell and things to show you, so fear not – you will not be disappointed!)

As I have said before, it is officially Christmas; a time of cheer, good will … and great food (let’s be honest with each other, we were all thinking about the food); a time for Band Aid, East 17 and Michael Bublé to serenade us; a time where pyjama and duvet days prevail. I could keep listing things about Christmas, but that would take forever, so I won’t (besides, my GCSE English teacher always said “the list of three will work wonders – it will engage your readers, keeping them interested, but not bored” … so here’s hoping they were right!). It is also a time for the many, many Christmas films to come out of the cupboard and make their way to the screens; Elf, A Christmas Carol, Home Alone … and … dare I say it … Die Hard (controversial, I know).

Here at the Cambridge Practice, we are all embracing the festive season in our own ways; in the secretaries’ office we have tinsel around desks, lights around screens and cute Santa post-it-notes stuck to desks; in the Reception area at Lower Farnham Road we have a lovely nativity set (rumour has it, this was made by a patient and given to us to be displayed forevermore) … Plus, the time has now come for Christmas jumpers in the Practice! Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing everyone’s taste in Christmas clothing – I hope you are too! And who can forget the Christmas songs being played on the radio?! I can never resist a mini karaoke session whenever possible (so if you see anyone walking along the corridor in the surgery singing along to music that isn’t actually playing – it will probably be me – I’m not mad, I promise; I just love a good sing-along!).

Now, however much a lot of us will enjoy Christmas, we have to remember those who are less fortunate than us – those who may be alone, homeless, unable to buy what they need … Christmas, although a time to be merry, is also a prime time for being the best version of yourself; we are, as a nation, beginning to bring love and acceptance to the forefront of our lives; I have seen so many things on the internet about people who have been touched by random acts of kindness – albeit paying for a coffee, returning a dropped item, or even paying for something as simple as a birthday card. These things that may seem small to some of us are something massive to those less fortunate. So please, check on your neighbours who are spending Christmas alone, spare a thought for people who cannot have what others will have this season – it does not take much – just a thought – but I know that if I was struggling, knowing I am being thought of would make a world of difference.

So for now from all of us at The Cambridge Practice;

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! See you in 2020!

Melissa Woodley

Making The Cambridge Practice the best it can be

Put up the banners, blow up the balloons, and celebrate in style – we made it! It has been a year and a half since Victoria Practice and Southlea Group Practice officially joined forces. I’m not going to lie – it’s been challenging for everyone, staff and patients alike. The changes that have occurred range from different telephone numbers to staff members being moved from one site to the other to a change in Practice Managers. And we all know that change is not easy. To use the slightly generalised saying, “we are creatures of habit”; we all get used to coming in and dealing with familiar people, albeit Receptionists, Secretaries, Admin Staff or Doctors, and when suddenly you’re coming in to the surgery and there is a complete stranger sitting in your favourite receptionist’s chair, it is bound to be a bit unsettling for some. We want to take this opportunity to reassure everyone that no matter whom you speak to, no matter who you see within the Practice, we are all here to help you. Our priority is you. We are all committed to making The Cambridge Practice the best it can be, and in turn, making sure the care you receive is the best it can be.

On the topic of care, I would like to mention something new and exciting within the Practice. In the words of Marvel’s Nick Fury; “There was an idea …” – the Practice has set up a team, a mix of clinical and non-clinical people, whose aim is to improve the Mental Health Services we offer as a Practice. There has been a lot of focus recently on mental health – it is everywhere you look; Facebook, News Websites, TV shows … and for good reason. Mental Health is such an important factor of everyone’s life – no matter who you are. Anyone who is suffering with their mental health deserves to have as much support as possible. Therefore, the Practice’s Mental Health Team, who had their first ever meeting in September, have had a few thoughts on how we can support those who need it. Our plan is to ensure that every GP has a folder filled to the brim with information on local services that they can handpick and present to patients depending on the patient’s needs and what would best benefit them. We are also planning to set up a Mental Health Web Page on our Practice website. And this … this is only the beginning.

As the patient, you know what would best help you. You know yourself better than anyone. And as a Practice, we have been thinking of new ways to get you, the patient, the best care that you know will be beneficial to you. Therefore, there are talks of setting up a way of getting your ideas to the forefront of our minds. One thought has been a ‘Suggestion Box’ in each Reception, so if you do have any ideas on how we can best help you, there is an anonymous way to put forward your thoughts.

Alas, the time has come for me to tie this post up – so as a goodbye for now, we would like to thank everyone who has supported the Practice throughout the merge and the challenges that followed. As I have said, it was not easy, but we got there! And we will continue to improve all that we can. Thank you – each and every one of you – for making this Practice all that it is, all that it can be, and all that it will be.

Melissa Woodley

The Cold Snap

Freezing temperatures, ice and snow are here..
Top tips just in case you aren’t completely ready for this cold snap:

If you cannot afford to heat all the rooms in your house to 18 degrees Celsius, heat your living room during the day and your bedroom from one hour before bedtime.

Stay indoors as much as you can but keep active even with chair based exercises.

Eat hot food/have hot drinks.

Keep all windows closed.

Draw your curtains when it is getting dark.

Wears lots of thinner layers of clothing, a hat, gloves and socks, pyjamas at night.

Only go out if you really need to. Wrap up 10 minutes before you go out so that you have trapped heat around your body. Wear boots or shoes which have grips on the soles so you are less likely to fall.

Check on older relatives/neighbours or anyone that has a long term illness especially if they live alone to make sure they are warm and if they are prescribed medicines/inhalers, to make sure they are using them. Check that they have enough of them and enough food.

Make sure you have contact numbers for people who can help you during this cold snap and for people who you may need to help. Keep your mobile charged and ensure your landline is working.

Additional top tips for the cold snap if you have COPD, asthma, heart conditions or diabetes…

COPD
If you are going out, try using your reliever inhaler 20-30 minutes before you go out and keep your reliever with you.

Wrap a scarf around your nose and mouth and breathe through your nose instead of your mouth as this will help warm the air you breathe in.

Contact your GP or pharmacist asap to get more inhalers if you are running out (or nebulisers if you use these) and to get a ‘rescue pack of steroids and antibiotics’ if you have used a rescue pack before but do not have one at home now. Your doctor or COPD nurse will have explained to you when to start the steroids or the antibiotics (as you may or may not need to start both) so that you do not need to see a dr straight away if it the evening or a weekend, though you should still see a dr within 2-3days of starting the rescue pack. If you are not sure whether to start your rescue pack or you don’t have one but know you need one, contact your dr or 111. The sooner you start your rescue pack, the less ill you will get and the quicker you will get better. If you don’t have a self-management plan to follow, make an appointment to see your COPD nurse to get one.

Asthma
Same tips as for COPD except do not need the ‘rescue pack’.

Diabetes
Sugar levels creep up when it is very cold or if you become ill, so test your blood sugar (after warming your hands up) as often as you did before and if you feel unwell. Increased activity to keep warm can reduce how much insulin you need. Try not to ‘comfort eat’.

Heart conditions
Do not do too much physical work outside or forget to take any medications you are on because cold weather makes your heart work harder to keep your body warm. This increases your heart rate and blood pressure. The cold also affects your blood which increase the risk of developing blood clots which could also cause a heart attack or a stroke.

Cambridge Practice Updates

E-Consult

Please note the eConsult service is not monitored outside our normal surgery opening hours. [Monday to Friday 08:30 – 18:00].

Any eConsult request you submit outside of our normal surgery opening hours will not be read until we open the next working day. For example, if you submit your request on a Friday afternoon, this may not be actioned until the following Monday.

NHS 111 can help if you have an urgent medical problem when your GP practice is closed. Dial 111 on any phone for advice, or visit the NHS 111 website – 111.nhs.uk.

Remember to call 999 at any time in a medical emergency. This is when someone is seriously ill, or injured, and their life is at risk.

Vaccine Status.

From 17 May 2021, people in England who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can demonstrate their vaccination status for international travel. A full course is currently two doses of any approved vaccine. Vaccine status will be available from:

The NHS App which you can download from app stores or the NHS website

It may take more than a week for your identity to be checked and verified so you can use this service.

If you cannot access the online services, and you have had 2 vaccines, you can request a paper letter from the NHS by calling 119. Only call 119 if you are due to travel abroad in the near future and have had your second dose more than 5 working days ago. It may take 7 working days for the letter to arrive.

This practice is not able to provide you with a letter that shows your COVID-19 vaccination status.

When you’re planning your travel, check the latest information on demonstrating your COVID-19 status when travelling abroad on the gov.uk website. Make sure there is time to get  proof of your vaccination status before you leave.

Coronavirus

For updates on the vaccine programme and more please follow us on Facebook.

Important information about the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

We are still open and here for you. We are continuing to provide services as we have been doing throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and are prioritising delivering care and services based on clinical needs.