On a Saturday morning, I like to lie in until, oooooh, at least 7.30. I take this time to catch up on ‘life’. By that, I mean scrolling through Facebook, Twitter and TikTok. A bit of escapism. Sadly, as I was scrolling recently, I came across a post about the local GP surgery on one social-media site – thankfully not one of mine!
The post from the surgery was about how busy they’d become and it suggested alternative routes to healthcare – sensible stuff like going to your pharmacy – and support on what to do if you have any COVID symptoms. I can feel the trepidation now of whoever posted that, because when I post something on my own Facebook surgery group, I run to the kitchen where the only sofa in the building sits and cower behind it for a few minutes, taking in a few deep breaths as I prepare myself for the keyboard warriors.
The comments to the local surgery did include a few positives ones, but the others went something like this:
GPs don’t even have a role when it comes to COVID
I don’t see why you should be busy
They just leave everyone standing outside
I don’t understand what they’re ‘busy’ doing
Nobody answers the phones or their emails; they’re doing nothing
Feeling protective of my general practice colleagues, I began to write a response. It went like this:
I too can’t understand why this practice is saying that they’re ‘so busy’. For example, in my surgery, since COVID started, I’ve had to buy extra magazines and bring in a TV because literally the staff have nothing to do! None of them have worked extra hours at the weekend to staff extra (and safe) flu clinics. No staff have worked extra hours to cover for their sick or self-isolating colleagues. No staff have put their lives at risk dealing with patients who later turn out to be COVID positive. None of our staff have had to dispense ten times the amount of medication they normally would because patients have panicked. None of the staff have faced abuse because they’ve asked patients politely to wear a mask. No clinical staff have worked beyond 6.30pm; they’re all at home having a glass of wine and their dinner by 7.00. No staff have had COVID themselves; it just bypasses all GP staff – their families are also immune. None of the nursing staff have worked extra hours to provide a service to patients because the other nurses have had to work from home due to childcare provision and/or schools being closed. None of our staff have faced threats on the phone while they try to explain the new triage system.
I just don’t get this ‘busy’ thing…
Our practice didn’t suddenly have to change the whole way we work, including having to factor in extra time to wear the correct PPE while also providing patients with care. We didn’t, overnight, have to introduce an online consultation framework and texting service for patients to improve communication. GP surgeries haven’t had to incur masses of extra cost to be COVID-safe and spend a huge amount of time implementing new policies. No staff have had to shield within the practice; staff are immune to such things. There has been no need to implement homeworking for those who can’t come in, and no need to source local assessment centres to provide a safe environment for patients and staff to be seen should they have COVID symptoms but also an acute illness. Staff haven’t worked through their lunch time and breaks to deal with any emergencies. No staff have left their station to run out and help someone who has fallen over or collapsed at the door or driven in their own time to deliver medication to those who are shielding. These things just don’t happen in surgeries.
What do they mean ‘they’re busy’? I just don’t understand…
In our practice we haven’t seen an increase in appointments because we’re now more accessible than ever. We haven’t seen an increase in patient contact because those in secondary care have paused most of their routine appointments – and we don’t then spend hours trying to find out when the patient will be seen. We haven’t dealt with thousands of COVID queries and we certainly haven’t vaccinated thousands of patients to help them have immunity to the flu. We don’t liaise with our counterparts and draw up contingency plans for our practices to ensure there will be healthcare for patients whatever happens. Practices aren’t still having to deal with audits and deadlines; they’ve all been helpfully scrapped so we can get on with the day job. They haven’t dealt with hundreds of queries from shielding patients, and we certainly haven’t helped those who are more vulnerable to access community support.
These GP surgeries! What on earth are they doing?
Why are they so busy?
At least, that’s what my answer would’ve been had I pressed send.
Thank you, fellow practice managers, for at least letting me share it with you.