St.Andrew’s Medical Centre
An open letter to our patients
Since March last year it has been a very challenging time for patients and the team at the surgery; we have adapted to deal with the changing circumstances. We adopted new ways of working and social distancing to keep everyone safe. We acquired extra telephone lines to help with the new telephone consultations. We have also provided the option for patients to have on-line consultations, as well as video consultations, and new methods to use photographic resources.
Our doors remained open throughout lockdown and we have been providing face-to-face nursing, pharmacist, advanced clinical practitioner & doctors’ appointments when clinically required throughout the pandemic in both the surgery and at an alternative safe site to prevent cross-spread within our premises, both staffed by St Andrews Medical Centre. In fact, according to latest data, this has totaled over 53,000 appointments just at SAMC alone in the past year. This is an increase on the previous year’s data and does not include appointments at the Covid Assessment Hub or the Vaccination Centre.
From December until earlier this month we helped set up and contributed to the Tunbridge Wells COVID vaccinations initiative providing clinicians and admin support to ensure as many people as possible could be vaccinated as soon as possible. 40,000 vaccinations were done alongside our normal work to date.
Our team has been working hard throughout the pandemic but with the easing of lockdown demand has increased to unprecedented levels. We receive more calls than ever before, are being asked to deal with minor issues on an urgent basis, patients are wishing to discuss multiple problems within one appointment or are asking about hospital related matters such as the long waiting time for a response to a referral rather than the correct route of contacting the hospital directly. The on-line consultations have significantly increased the daily workload.
When the doctors & other staff are not dealing directly with patients they are sending referrals, reading letters from consultants about the care you have received and any follow ups required, reviewing test results and signing repeat medication prescriptions. We are all working harder and longer days to try and fit this all in.
On top of all of this, we have also successfully moved our practice to a wonderful new, larger health centre which will allow us to continue to care for the needs & health of the Southborough community.
All of this has the potential to lead to unsafe working and burnout within our team. We care about our patients, recognise the frustrations you feel about waiting to get through on the phone and that our appointments get filled quickly but we do not have the resource to do more than we are doing. The government has plans to help the backlog in hospitals, but no such plans to help General Practice with this issue of capacity not meeting the current demand.
We are so grateful for all the kind words of thanks and appreciation from so many of you but saddened by the increased abuse we have all experienced.
The lack of resources in General Practice is a national and indeed historical problem and not something faced by St Andrews Medical Centre alone. We ask for your help to provide the best service we can and ensure we can support those patients in most urgent clinical need.
For minor ailments and injuries please consider other services, such as the pharmacy before you contact the surgery.
When a receptionist asks for details about your symptoms please provide these and when offered an alternative to a doctor, please consider this. We have clinical pharmacists who can help with medication queries about dosage and side effects. The receptionist can book appointments directly with a physiotherapist, a physician’s associate (can do everything a doctor does but can’t issue a script), a paramedic practitioner or a nurse prescriber as well as doctors.
We also ask that when you do have an urgent clinical need you do let us know and explain your position to help us direct our resources to where they are really needed.
Thank you all for your understanding at this challenging time.
Published: Jul 2, 2021