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Important update from the Partners – May 2024

Dear Patients,

We last wrote to you in June 2021 during the pandemic. We thought it would be a good idea to write to you once more to update you on what is going on in General Practice and the wider NHS. As the Covid pandemic ends, the NHS has been left in the worst crisis of its history, with huge waiting lists for secondary care and the consequent impact on General Practice.

Each year the BMA negotiate a General Practice contract with the government. Despite the massive increases in inflation which have impacted us all, it is disappointing that the government only offered a 2% uplift in the contract value, meaning many practices are struggling to cover their costs in terms of staff salaries, gas, electricity and consumables. You may have read in the press about a recent referendum run by the BMA, in which 99% of 19,000 GPs, voted to not accept the proposed contract. The BMA continues to try to negotiate with the government to increase the funding to General Practice, so that General Practice can continue to provide all the wonderful services its does: looking after acutely unwell patients, managing long term chronic conditions, providing vaccinations and smear tests, ensuring patients receive their medications, wound dressings and looking after our frail patients both in their homes and in local nursing homes. The list could go on. General Practice has often been described as the jewel in the crown of the NHS but sadly practices are closing due the extreme pressures they are under. The Red House will continue to support the BMA as it negotiates for the survival of General Practice.

The idea of ‘Modern General Practice’ was introduced, prior to the pandemic, due to the problems General Practice was facing in terms of recruitment and retention of GPs. In the past, the Government had pledged to increase GP numbers. England currently has 2200 fewer GPs than in 2015 and nationally, we are about 5000 GPs short which is predicted to rise to 8800 in 2030. The aim of Modern General Practice is to ensure that GP appointments will always be available for those patients with multiple, chronic and complex problems, who need them most.

Modern General Practice has at its core, ‘Primary Care Networks’ (PCNs) formed in 2019 to enable practices to work together in a supportive fashion. The Red House Surgery is in a PCN with practices in Borehamwood, Elstree and Bushey. Increasingly elements of General Practice are now resourced through PCNs in ring-fenced funding streams for employing certain staff, for example, physios, clinical pharmacists and paramedics. The Red House has welcomed these allied health care professionals who bring unique skills and training to the practice and when you call for an appointment you will be asked questions by our admin team who are trained in triage, as to the reason for your appointment. You may then be booked an appointment directly with one of these team members, who are appropriately qualified to deal with your problem. For example, if you have an acutely painful knee you may be given an appointment with a First Contact Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist. If you are not tolerating a medication you may be given an appointment with a clinical pharmacist. If you have a minor illness you will be seen by our experienced team of paramedics and advanced nurse practitioners.

Modern General Practice encourages the use of ‘Total Patient Triage’ to reduce unnecessary appointments. This involves all appointment requests being made via online consultation tools, which are then reviewed by clinicians prior to appointments being offered. You will all have friends and family members whose surgeries have switched to this system. At the Red House we are very proud that we are ‘list-based’, with each GP having their own list of patients. We strive to ensure that you will see your named GP ensuring continuity of care and the huge health benefits this achieves. At present we will not be switching to Total Patient Triage, as we want to keep list-based continuity of care.

But we need your help. In order to protect our valuable GP appointments for those patients who really need them, you will be offered an appointment with a member of the General Practice team who is best equipped to manage your health needs. Please support us in this process as we move towards nationally driven Modern General Practice and the benefits it brings.

Modern General Practice encourages the use of the NHS app which is frequently enhanced and updated. We would strongly recommend that you use it for your repeat prescribing as it is the safest and quickest way of requesting your medication. You can check it to see when your prescription has been sent to your nominated chemist. It is also very useful to check your test results as once these have been reviewed by your GP, the result will be available for you to view. The NHS app means you can access your notes, results and prescriptions 24/7. Also, by not ringing in for results or prescription requests, it means we can keep our phone lines free for vulnerable patients who may not have access to the NHS app. If you are a registered patient at the surgery, and care for a vulnerable patient who is also registered, you can apply for proxy access to the NHS app, so you can do these things on behalf of your loved one.

We are immensely proud of all our staff who continue to work tirelessly to support our patients and provide clinical care. We do understand that these very challenging times for the NHS are causing difficulties in how you access health care as a whole. We take all feedback very seriously and are immensely grateful for the positive feedback which we receive. On some occasions feedback has been in the form of angry interactions or negative comments on social media. This is very demoralising for staff when we are all trying our best to deliver care in difficult circumstances. We ask that feedback is through the appropriate channels, as posted on our website.

We ask that we show each other mutual respect and consideration. We will continue with our passionate aim to provide the best care and support we can to you, our patients.

Thank you.

Dr William Bagg, Dr Krish Gupte, Dr Bhavin Patel and Dr Violaine Carpenter