GPs across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire are reassuring older members of the community that they are safe and welcome to go into practices during the coronavirus outbreak following concerns they are staying away due to fears about the virus.
The number of patients over the age of 75 who are visiting their GP has dropped dramatically since the outbreak and doctors are concerned that this group of patients could be missing out on vital support and treatment for medical conditions.
Dr Alison Bolam from NHS Bristol, North Somerset & South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (BNSSG CCG) urged patients to contact their practice if they have any concerns about their health.
She said: “I want to give my assurance to our patients that we are still here and you must not hesitate to get in touch with your GP practice if you have concerns about your health. Whilst it is still important to maintain social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak, it is also just as important to seek medical advice for any other illnesses or conditions.
“Please call your practice in the normal way to make an appointment. If phone lines are busy please persist until you get through to a receptionist who will arrange for a GP to call you if needed to discuss your problem. If the GP needs to see you in person you will be offered an appointment to attend the practice or the GP will visit you if required.”
All practices are managing social distancing in waiting rooms and have separate areas so that patients with symptoms of coronavirus do not come into contact with non-coronavirus areas. Patients are encouraged to wear a mask, if they have one, or they will be offered one at the practice. GPs will wear a mask, apron and gloves, or if there is any possibility of coronavirus, they will wear full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
Patients who are shielded will have their individual needs assessed and can come to a non-coronavirus area of the practice or be visited at home if needed.
Kay Libby, CEO of Age UK Bristol said some older people were avoiding practices over concerns that GPs may be too busy caring for patients with coronavirus. “There is confusion among older people whether GP practices are open and if they can go in. If they have been told that some routine clinics have been stopped they may presume that this means that they are not able to go to their surgery at all.
“It is likely that the people who are avoiding GP appointments are the ones who need them the most as they are more likely to have age-related health conditions. We encourage older people and those who care for them to contact their GP if they have any concerns.”
Older people who would like help with practical, social or emotional issues can contact the Support Hub for Older People on 0117 929 7537.
Patients who think they may have coronavirus should contact NHS 111 either online at 111.nhs.uk or by calling 111.