It’s been said that life will never be the same following the COVID 19 pandemic, and the new normal has even changed the way we access local healthcare.
From booking visits to A&E, live video links with doctors, and receptionists giving a triage service, and far-reaching changes are set to transform how we’re treated.
Plans were well underway before lockdown to relieve the stresses on the healthcare service that was creaking, as GP’s and A&E’s buckled under the stress of rising demands, and novel ways of working were already being put in place to prevent emergency departments becoming bogged down with patients by offering more reliable methods of triage.
GP’s were also looking at ways to use their resources more carefully, including holding telephone consultations, and these measures were conveniently set in motion as lockdown hit but now it seems they’re set to continue.
As well as GP telephone consultations, Clinical Commissioning Groups are introducing care navigators to surgeries following trials during the crisis, and under the scheme, receptionists have now had the training to triage patients and refer them to the best service.
But, there are some concerns on how those who are less able, such as the elderly, would cope, and some struggle just attempting to make an appointment with their GP, particularly if they’re hard of hearing, they would find it challenging speaking to a receptionist at their doctor’s surgery.
And some elderly people don’t even own a mobile phone because they have no concept of how to use one, so they use their landline, that’s if they even have one, and the older generation feels much more at peace when consulting with a doctor face to face, and some wouldn’t know how they would manage having a telephone appointment instead.
It certainly wouldn’t feel reassuring speaking to a doctor on the phone as what it would in person. Nevertheless, an innovative way to remove some of the constraints has already been started, and well before the pandemic.
London based company, Medic Spot rolled out a new service to pharmacies last year, offering a two-way live video link between patient and doctor with diagnostic technology, and the People’s Chemist, in Southend on Sea, England, took on the service in October 2019, and the owner thinks it will serve to relieve stress on NHS resources, offering time-strapped visitors a fast and efficient option to the conventional surgery.
NHS bosses are also trialling a 111 first model that will see patients calling the triage line to schedule a visit to A&E if it’s considered essential.
Pilot schemes have started, with the system going nationwide by the winter.
Under the proposals, NHS 111 will serve as a triage point so people requiring critical treatment can book their care. Some will still go to A&E’s, but others may be transferred to primary treatment centres, primary care or hot clinics.
A spokesperson for campaign group Save Southend NHS said that they wouldn’t want to see telephone triage become commonplace in A&E departments in Mid and South Essex, or at any other hospital in the United Kingdom.
And by their very essence, A&E departments should be adequately staffed and open 24/7 and able to receive all or any blue light patients and walk-ins.
And with the population of Southend now topping 320,000 and increasing quickly, it’s essential that they maintain and indeed invest for larger and better A&E services in the town.
A spokesperson for the Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust said that they’re now actively urging people to call NHS 111 before visiting Emergency Departments and that from December, it will be part of a national programme.
This new system won’t replace 999 calls for life-threatening emergencies such as a suspected heart attack or stroke, and a spokesperson for Southend and Castle Point and Rochford Clinical Commissioning groups said that practices have made exceptional progress over the preceding few months in delivering triage and online consultations and will be encouraged to continue.
So, basically, they’re giving the Nazi Ann Robinson lookalike receptionists more of a right to say ‘Nein’, you can’t have a service, and that you’re the weakest link – goodbye!