GP practices in Bedfordshire (BLMK) are reducing visits into surgeries and switching to telephone and video appointments when they can.
Patients with concerns about coronavirus are being asked to follow government advice, rather than contact their GP practice.
If you, or anyone in your household, has a high temperature or a new and continuous cough, however mild, stay at home and go to nhs.uk to check symptoms and follow the specialist medical advice. You can also contact the NHS 111 online coronavirus service. Only call 111 if you cannot get online or if your symptoms worsen.
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Patients who contact their local practice for an appointment with a GP or nurse will have an initial telephone assessment and could then be booked in for a follow-up consultation. Wherever possible, this consultation will be over the phone or by video.
Anyone who needs to be seen in person by a doctor or nurse will be offered an appointment at the surgery or possibly an alternative site, as long as there’s no risk to patients or staff.
In light of the new approach, many practices will not be accepting online bookings. However, patients are still encouraged to use online services for ordering repeat prescriptions.
Although GP practices are still registering new patients – generally patients are being asked to support NHS GP services by not moving practice during the current emergency.
Dr Nicola Smith, clinical chair for the three Clinical Commissioning Groups serving BLMK, said: “Our GP practices are moving to a new way of working by eliminating all but essential contact with others. Our priority is to make sure that our GPs, nurses and wider teams in practices remain available to support patients and, while more of that support will be over the phone or by video, our practices are still open and will be arranging to see patients where needed.
“We urge people to protect themselves and others – particularly those who are most vulnerable – by following government advice around coronavirus and not coming into practices unless they have a confirmed arrangement to do that. Everyone has a role to play, so follow the advice: stay at home.
“Finally, I would encourage people to be considerate of others when buying over-the-counter medicines, such as paracetamol, and only get as much as you need."