Our response to recent rumours

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It is our great privilege to look after the healthcare needs of more than 4,250 patients in our wonderful Upper Dales communities. We are incredibly proud of where we live and our staff feel very much a part of the communities we serve.


You’re our family, our friends, our neighbours. We care greatly about your health and welfare and we will always try our best to provide the best service possible to you.
Of late, we’ve had to deal with some unfounded rumours and unfavourable media coverage which has created unnecessary worry and anxiety for our patients.
Tackling this misinformation has also taken a toll on staff morale at a time when we’re incredibly busy and suffering physically and mentally from the fatigue of COVID and the responsibility we took on to get vaccinations into people’s arms in the Upper Dales.


It’s maybe easy to forget, but we’re patients too. We’re human. And sometimes when we don’t feel at our best, some of the gossip and speculation we hear weighs heavier on our shoulders than might ordinarily be the case.
We wanted to take this opportunity to address some of the rumours that have been circulating and give you the facts, in our own words, unfiltered by the media or other outside influences.

Staffing

As reported by our Patient Participation Group, Dr Scott is leaving the practice at the end of September. The process to recruit Dr Scott’s replacement is already under way. In the event there are difficulties filling the post, the practice has plans in place to utilise locum cover as well as additional Advanced Nurse Practitioner support, should the need arise.
It’s worth reiterating, we do not have any staffing issues at this present time and we have cover arrangements in place for when a GP or Advanced Nurse Practitioner is on annual leave.
Contrary to some of the rumours we’ve heard, we are certainly not closing.

Open Access clinics

Prior to the COVID pandemic, we were one of only a handful of practices in North Yorkshire which ran Open Access clinics. As you know, it allowed patients to visit their surgery on a morning – without an appointment being necessary – and they would be seen by a doctor or nurse.


When the clinics were busy, the waiting time to be seen was sometimes a couple of hours. However, patients still had the option to book an appointment if they didn’t want to take the chance of a long wait.
As part of our contract, we are not obliged or expected to provide Open Access clinics and prior to COVID, it was certainly not the norm in most other places in North Yorkshire.
At the start of the pandemic, we had to adapt and run surgeries differently because of COVID measures like social distancing and infection prevention and control. And like every other surgery in the country we adopted a telephone triage system.
That allowed us to prioritise patient care based on urgency of need and carefully manage the numbers of patients we were seeing face-to-face. The last thing we wanted to do was expose patients and staff to unnecessary risk.


It’s a total myth that general practices closed their doors. Throughout the pandemic, our surgeries remained open and we continued to see patients in person if it was appropriate and there was a medical need.


More than two years on from the start of the pandemic, COVID has not gone away. And while the vaccination programme has been an enormous success and prevented many thousands of people from becoming seriously ill and dying, some of our patients remain extremely vulnerable.
While the worst of the pandemic is hopefully behind us, we still want to maintain some social distancing in our surgeries in order to reassure and protect those most at risk, but we cannot do that with Open Access clinics, so we will not be reintroducing them.
It’s worth noting that we have not received complaints about the withdrawal of these clinics.

The telephone triage model

We feel the current triage model is working well and is helping us deal with the enormous demand we’re currently faced with. Patient feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
Under the current way of working, anyone who contacts the practice needing urgent GP / Advanced Nurse Practitioner support gets a call back that day (the GP/ANP will call the patient three times, which is a fairly standard approach amongst GP Practices nationwide) – for clarity, that’s three separate phone calls, and not three rings!


If a doctor or ANP needs to see the patient in person, urgently, they will give then a same-day face-to-face appointment; if they need to see them but not that day, they’ll give them a face-to-face appointment on another day (depending on clinical need following triage) – this is the system in almost all other GP Practices at this time.
The current wait for a non-urgent routine appointment at Central Dales is around a week – though it’s often less than that.

Additional Better Access clinics

We currently offer patients weekend ‘Better Access’ clinic appointments at Catterick in addition to the regular practice appointments.
One of our practice GPs also runs a Friday evening Better Access clinic at Hawes or Aysgarth and we are about to offer Saturday morning Better Access clinics at Aysgarth (from June) to provide even more choice to working patients in the Dales.

Practice demand and current appointments data:

June 2019 (Pre-covid19)
Open Access F2F and pre-bookable F2F Telephone appointments
784 144
Total appointments = 928

June 2020
Same day Tel appts Same day F2F Pre-bookable Tel slots Routine F2F
401 56 389 143
Total appointments = 989

June 2021
Same day Tel appts Same day F2F Pre-bookable Tel slots Routine F2F
572 154 392 176
Total appointments = 1294

April 2022
Same day Tel appts Same day F2F Pre-bookable Tel slots Routine F2F
586 174 408 189
Total appointments = 1357

Findings:
The above figures show a clear 23.6% increase in demand in June 2021 directly compared to June 2020. Highest demand is for same day/urgent appointments. This trend has continued into 2022 with demand not dropping.

Patient Participation Group (PPG) – Upper Dales Health Watch

Our PPG (Upper Dales Health Watch) draws representation from each of the parish councils in our geography: Askrigg and Low Abbotside, Aysgarth and District, Bainbridge, Burton-cum-Walden, Carperby-cum-Thoresby, Castle Bolton, Hawes and High Abbotside, Muker, Preston under Scar, Redmire and West Witton.
At these regular forums, the PPG has the opportunity to raise patient concerns directly with practice management and clinicians, ask questions and hear the latest news and developments which affect primary care in the Upper Dales.
We understand why attendance dipped during COVID – meeting virtually was not everyone’s cup of tea and we know internet access in places is a little patchy – but now that meetings are once again being held in person, we would hope to see each parish represented. We will be writing to parish council clerks in due course to encourage parish councils to renew their participation in this group.

And finally

We want to thank you for your continued support. Your kind words on social media and in person really do lift our spirits and make such a difference.