Q. How do I get a GP appointment now – has it changed since the coronavirus pandemic?

A. GPs across south Cumbria are continuing to see patients in innovative ways in order to keep everyone safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since lockdown was announced in March, GP practices around the country had to find new ways to run services, to ensure the safety of both staff and patients - with one of the main changes being the way patients access their GP.

In Furness, patients who contact their GP surgery will most likely talk to a member of the team over the phone who will arrange a telephone call with a clinician first and the clinician will make a decision about whether the persons concerned can be dealt with over the phone, by sending a photograph by email, by a video consultation or if a face-to-face appointment is needed.

Although restrictions are starting to ease, with shops and restaurants reopening and people now able to spend time with their family and friends, we do need to remember that COVID-19 hasn’t gone away, and we need to stay safe, and carry on taking every precaution we can for the sake of ourselves and others.

We’re finding that a lot of people can be dealt with over the phone, which not only saves them time, as they don’t have to travel to the surgery, but also limits the number of people they come into contact with and the risk to those patients.”

South Cumbria GPs were quick to respond to the pandemic and have been working hard to implement new ways of working developed by the NHS in response to the outbreak. They have identified areas in their own or neighbouring practices - which are referred to as 'Red Sites' to see patients with symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 - so they are seen separately and safely.

Q. So how are we keeping people safe when they attend?

Many people in Furness and south Cumbria are quite vulnerable and we need to continue to do everything we can to ensure their safety.

We can do this by helping as many people as possible through telephone or video consultations.

At the same time, we have put in place important measures, to make sure people can stay socially distanced, with clinicians wearing full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to keep them and our patients safe.

Some of those new ways of working mean things take a little longer, and we just can’t see as many people as we used to in the same time. An appointment with a nurse that once took 10 minutes, now needs 30 minutes to be allocated, so clinical rooms can be thoroughly cleaned between each appointment and PPE can be changed.

If you do have a face-to-face appointment at a GP surgery, the below procedures will most likely be in place and you may be asked: whether, prior to your appointment, you or anyone in your house have any COVID-19 symptoms; asked to wear a face covering to your appointment (face mask or scarf); met at the door by a member of staff who will direct you; requested to attend alone; asked that you avoid using the toilet if possible; some surgeries may take your temperature before you enter the premises.

We are still very much here for all of our patients - we’re just operating in a different way, which will help reduce the spread of infection, therefore keeping everyone safe. We’d like to thank our patients who, throughout all of this, have been really kind by showing their support and we hope we can continue working together like this.

If you require a GP appointment, please contact the practice you are registered at.