We're at 100% every day

We run at one hundred percent every day”: Norwich practice manager explains new ways of working and impact of COVID-19

Medical practices are offering more appointments than ever before and the way patients contact their surgery is also changing. Although the pandemic has meant some changes, there are reasons why things will never be the same. Practice Manager James Foster from St Stephens Gate Medical Practice and director of OneNorwich Practices, explains what this means for patients.

"Primary care services have been transformed over the last few years. This was nothing to do with the pandemic, but COVID-19 has meant even more changes to the ways we have to work. The idea that a surgery is made of a few full-time doctors and the odd practice nurse or two has now been replaced with bustling health centres packed with highly skilled healthcare professionals and trained admin support.

At our surgery you can be seen by a senior GP, trainee GP, prescribing pharmacist, nurse, prescribing nurse practitioner, practice nurse, HCA, optometrist, consultant surgeon, mental health nurse, dietician, link workers, physiotherapists and an HCA. We can refer you to community services, hospitals and more. And don’t forget the health visitors and midwives who also call our practice home. We can offer same day telephone, same day face to face and video appointments as well as routine appointments with any of the team.

So when you call, your receptionist will ask you for a brief description of why you are calling. We don’t want the full clinical history but a brief outline to help ensure you get seen at the right time by the right professional. Your GP is ultimately responsible for your care but works alongside experts in their field who can give the best service. Honestly, if you have a medication query you would want to speak to our pharmacist, who is a dedicated expert. If they need to liaise with your GP they will do.

We expect you as patients to demand quality from us. We want you to get the possible treatments and outcomes but you are not being fobbed off if you are offered an alternative professional.  Colleagues talk to each other with mutual respect and we offer a whole team care approach.

Most people agree there is no slack in the system. We run at one hundred per cent every day. The reason you might be waiting on the line is because other patients are telling us about their needs and we are helping them. The appointments may be a longer wait than we would like but the delay is because appointments are full and surgeries are busy.

It’s always helpful to get constructive feedback so don’t hesitate to suggest improvements to your surgery. But complaints like “when will you open again” or “I can only speak to a doctor” aren’t helpful.

Primary care is working harder than ever before. Every practice is working with One Norwich to build resilience. Locally, our vaccination rollout has been among the best in the country. We are seeing lots of patients face to face whatever national media may say.

Your care is as important to us as ever it was. We are just working in a slightly different way.

And one final word, you may have seen reports about patient rudeness. It’s true that every day at least one member of our staff is reduced to tears or worse because of a patient. But it is not the patients who shout and swear. These are already priced in. It is those who humiliate staff or making cutting remarks that have the biggest effect on morale and esteem."