Dr Paul Molloy has been working at the COVID centre at Altnagelvin Hospital, he advises that GP practices can not return to normal at present because there is still a risk of spreading COVID-19 and those in high-risk categories must be protected.
"I have had several queries from different sources about why we can’t just go back to normal appointments.
I have prepared a short piece if you wished to publish in your respective papers.
Due to COVID-19 GP practices have had to adapt like everyone else.
Despite the wishes of staff and patients that we go back to normal services which includes letting people book their own appointments, it just isn’t possible.
We have a duty to all patients as well as our staff.
Before any attendance at the practice you will be contacted to make sure you do not have COVID-19 symptoms.
This will be similar for any appointments.
We must also remind people not to attend any public place if you are ill as you should be isolating and getting tested.
All services like immunisations, and advice regarding any condition can still be accessed.
Practices have become very efficient and even our practice staff are triaging calls to help the smooth and speedy delivery of services.
We also have new team members, like physios, social workers, pharmacists and mental health workers. It is vital that you are connected to the correct team member to sort out your problem.
The reception staff may ask details regarding the problem to help this process.
Practices are still asking people to attend the surgery for tests or examination and to avoid unnecessary trips or exposure we are also using things like video consults.
Despite the talk about the ending of lockdown, COVID-19 is not ending. It is still there and will spread unless we continue to take precautions.
This means we cannot have waiting rooms full of patients and allow someone to land in with symptoms and possibly infect a whole waiting room.
If you attend the surgery you will be asked to wear a mask. It remains good practice to wash your hands regularly and wear a mask if out.
Despite the end of lock down, high risk patients remain high risk, and while the government restrictions do not apply, personally if I had been shielding I would continue to limit my contact with crowds during to the risk of infection.
We do not have a vaccine yet, and according to figures we are nowhere near herd immunity levels, so any thoughts that COVID-19 is over are premature.
This explains why GPs cannot go back to how things were pre-COVID and may not be able to for some time.
We thank the public for their support in this.“
Dr Paul Molloy
Western LMC Secretary.
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