During the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, all St. Helens GP practices have remained open and worked together to manage the high demand for care. Before Covid, there had been a significant shortage of GPs, ANPs and Practice Nurses in StHelens. To ensure are patients and staff remain safe from Covid and to ensure equal access to all of our patients, we have been caring for patients in new ways, including the use of telephone and video consultations, e-consultations, seeing patients face to face at our surgeries or on home visits, or if at risk of Covid – at the Covid hot hub assessment centre at Albion Street and Haydock and Covid patient acute visiting service.
During this Pandemic, our general practice teams have seen more deaths, complications of Covid, mental health problems and more activity than at any other time in their careers. It has been incredibly tough to work through. By working in these new ways we have avoided the practice closures and sickness in the workforce seen in other places like London. We have continued to manage acute illness, screen for cancer and care for our most vulnerable patients.
Whilst these new ways of working were initially difficult to establish, they have helped us to help more people each day. We are now managing about 40% more patients daily than we were in the winter before Covid struck. At the peak of the pandemic it was much busier. At the same time we have delivered over 100,000 Covid vaccines to our population: to the oldest, most vulnerable and patients with long term conditions.
We have now come to the point where the pressure of demand for GP appointments is so high, that practices will cease work at the GP Mass vaccination centre at Saints and focus on managing the huge Covid workload and return to more usual chronic disease management.
To do this, we need to continue working in these new ways to ensure the sickest and most vulnerable get seen amongst the thousands of requests for appointments. Thousands of patients are also waiting for hospital treatment such as operations, and our practices are trying to help these patients cope whilst they wait. We have a backlog of many non-urgent routine medical problems that need to be dealt with.
Our patients can help our local NHS. Econsutlations and telephone consultations work really well for many working or housebound patients and for straight forward treatments, those needing results, discussions about mental health or sick notes. Other patients might be better managed face to face, some in surgery and some at home such as terminally ill patients.
Patients under 40 will be able to get their Covid vaccines through the national booking programme at the other Mass Vaccination site at Saints. We expect to reopen the GP Mass Vaccination site in winter for booster 3rd Covid doses and possibly flu vaccinations.
It’s important that all of our patients work with our practices to ensure that more of our patients can be seen by the work force we have. We will need to ensure the sickest and most vulnerable get the quickest attention whilst ensuring all patients’ needs are met in the most appropriate way for their conditions.
We are really proud of what we have achieved and we are constantly reminded how well our patients have coped during the pandemic. But without your help, we will not be able to manage the tidal wave of demand on our services. Thank you for helping us to help you.