Coronavirus (COVID-19) - Latest Updates
As part of the NHS's efforts to protect you and health workers at this difficult time, Oxfordshire GP practices have changed the way they work.
The most important thing that you can do to stay safe, protect your family and protect your NHS staff is to follow public health advice to stay at home where possible, to keep your distance from other people, and to wear a face covering on public transport, in shops, or any other enclosed environment with people from outside of your household.
Please do not visit the GP surgery in person unless asked to do so.
If you need health advice for suspected coronavirus, contact NHS 111 online or by phone. You can also contact us through our online consultation service (go to our eConsult page) or by telephone if you are concerned about coronavirus, or any other health condition or symptom. You will be offered a telephone appointment or you will be advised if you need to be seen by a doctor, and safe arrangements for this will be made.
Please be aware that your usual doctor, nurse or other health professional may not be available and you may have to travel to another location for face-to-face care if that becomes necessary.
Co-existing with Covid: The New Normal
Rather than waiting for the coronavirus pandemic to end, it looks increasingly likely that it is something we will need to live alongside in the long-term. Below are some changes that we have made to how our services function, and ways in which patients can help us to provide effective services.
We need to achieve three things:
- Assess and treat people with possible symptoms of Covid-19 in a safe way for them, our staff, and other patients
- Continue to provide a broad range of primary care services to our overall population
- Ensure that people who would be at high risk from Covid-19 can access services safely.
To enable this we are adopting the following measures:
- Patients with potential symptoms of Covid-19 are seen separately from other patients
‘CALM’ clinics (Coronavirus Assessment Liaison and Monitoring) have been established across Oxfordshire. Woodlands Medical Centre hosts the Didcot clinic, where patients park in separate parking bays, use a separate entrance, and are seen in a separate part of the building from other patients. The clinicians seeing those patients at Woodlands stay in that clinic for the duration of that session, wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and change out of the clothes worn at the end of their clinic then go home and do not return to our practice on the same day. This should provide effective segregation of people with symptoms and those without. The number and locations of these clinics may vary over the coming months as we see peaks and troughs of symptoms of possible coronavirus.
- All clinical staff in the practice have weekly screening for coronavirus
We are fortunate to have had this service provided by a local private laboratory prior to NHS testing being available, and this helps us to monitor the health of our staff and ensure that the people treating patients are not infected with coronavirus without having symptoms.
- Waiting room chairs are spaced further apart
People can have coronavirus with no symptoms, or very few symptoms. We therefore need to operate services bearing this in mind. Significant contact is defined as being less than 2 metres away from an infected person for more than 15 minutes, and we need to avoid this in our waiting areas. This has reduced the capacity of our waiting areas down to 12 people, and we have adjusted the volume and timing of face to face appointments to align with this.
- Shielded patients can be seen separately
We are operating some appointments for blood tests / nurse treatments which are reserved for people at the highest risk of complications from coronavirus. These appointments take place in a different room from other activities. Staff will be wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which together with their weekly screening, makes the risk of possible transmission to these patients extremely low.
- Childhood immunisations are carried out separately
Immunisations for all babies, toddlers, and pre-school children are booked early in the day when there are fewer patients in the practice. If you are coming for your baby's 6-8 week check, we are timing the GP check to coincide with the appointment for your child's 8-week immunisations, avoiding the need for two separate visits to the practice. Those attending these appointments are asked to wait in a separate area from other patients.
Please help us keep footfall low by attending the appointment without a second adult or additional children.
- Many GP appointments are carried out remotely by phone, video, or e-consultation
Just as before the pandemic, we continue to invite patients for a face to face GP consultation where there is need or when a specific examination is required. However many patient requests can be resolved in a telephone consultation, with the addition of video where it is helpful. These changes are necessary in order to reduce the flow of people through the practice, reduce the risks to patients and staff, and preserve the available supplies of PPE. We have found that most issues can be dealt with in this way, without the need for face to face examination, and we are able to continue to provide effective services with these changes. If you have symptoms that you would like advice on, please do get in touch rather than waiting for things to get back to normal, particularly if you are concerned about potential cancer symptoms, heart problems, or any other significant health issue.
How to help us help you
- Please make sure we have an up to date mobile phone number for you
We are increasingly using text messaging to let people know about appointments, send links to documents, and issue electronic prescriptions, all of which need your correct mobile number. Please update this if it changes. You can do this through the NHS App or Patient Access, or at Reception.
- Please arrive five minutes before your appointment time
This reduces the number of people in our waiting areas at any one time.
- Attend your appointment alone unless you need someone to assist you
- "My mask protects you, your mask protects me"
We encourage all our patients to wear a face covering when attending the surgery please. It doesn't need to be a surgical mask (we would prefer that those are reserved for those who need them most). For information about this and to find out how to make your own in as little as one minute, please visit https://www.masks4all.org.uk/. Please note that we may refuse entry if you are not wearing a face covering. If you find wearing a face covering is especially difficult for you, for instance some of our COPD patients, then please consider wearing a face shield or visor as an alternative.
eConsult enables us to offer online consultations to our patients. It allows you to seek advice, submit enquires to us, and offers around the clock NHS self-help information, signposting to services, and has an excellent symptom checker.
We are providing a response by the end of the next working day to e-consults received before 4pm on any working day, so this is a quick and effective way to deal with health issues. Photos can also be attached.
With the reduced footfall and waiting room capacity we are unable to fit in several people per appointment. Clearly children will need to come to their appointments with a parent / guardian, but where possible this needs to be 1 adult with the child and no other family members.
The NHS App, available for Android and iPhones, enables you to manage appointments, request repeat medications to be sent directly to your choice of pharmacy, and view your test results or your medical record. If you are concerned about any health condition there is also a very informative symptom checker that gives you appropriate guidance. This reduces trips to the practice, helps to free up phone lines, and reduces the amount of paper - all of which are especially helpful when we are in a time of higher risk. Click here to find out more or download the app.
- Make use of our Community Link Workers
The pandemic will have created issues for many people with work, finances, and stress from uncertainty and isolation. Our Community Link Workers can offer pragmatic and emotional support for anyone in need. You can contact them on 01235 849 445 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have all found needing to adapt rapidly to the new realities facing us and we would like to thank our patients and our staff for the understanding that they have shown.
We are happy to hear any comments, feedback or suggestions that would help us provide effective healthcare, so please feel free to share these.