Members of Bradford Council’s Health and Social Care Scrutiny Committee will meet next week, and will receive an update on how local GP surgeries have coped with the Coronavirus crisis.
Members will be told of the difficulties in trying to return vital services to normal levels when Bradford is still among the worst places in the country for infection rates.
The report highlights issues facing the District’s GP surgeries as lockdown is eased, including exhausted staff, uncertainty over how willing people will be to return to regular visits and additional cleaning.
Throughout lockdown there has been a push for non-emergency appointments to be held by phone or video conference.
In June 2019 around 35,000 appointments, out of the 300,000 appointments booked by Bradford District GPs that month, were over the phone.
In June 2020 around 130,000 of the 275,000 appointments were over telephone.
The report adds: “‘Digital first’ is expected to become the ‘norm’ as services recommence.”
Covid safeguarding measures now mean face to face appointments can take up to four times longer than usual. The report adds: “This is due to the need to adhere to social distancing measures for staff and patients; for instance staggered appointments so less people are in the waiting room; or people wait in cars/outside to be called in; necessary hand hygiene before and after each contact; ‘donning and doffing’ personal protective equipment (PPE) and enhanced cleaning of all areas particularly clinical areas.”
Under a section on issues and constraints facing GPs, the report says: “The workforce is tired and needs time to recover.
“Demand is difficult to quantify when public confidence in accessing healthcare is variable
“Expectations for restoring services have been shared nationally, however Covid-19 is still prevalent in Bradford and the district has been classed as ‘a high risk coronavirus protection area’ with lockdown restrictions which affect the public and staff (confidence; continued shielding; risk of COVID-19) in place.
“Restart and restorations of services is being undertaken whilst the presence of Covid-19 is still in our communities. There are related productivity implications in safely delivering services in hot and cold zones, this includes workforce; additional cleaning and zoning, PPE donning / doffing which reduces efficiency.”
It adds: “There continue to be many challenges for GPs and practice staff; not least the impact of the pandemic on workforce wellbeing; increased workload, and the need to undertake risk assessments of all staff.”
During lockdown patients were asked for their opinions on how appointments were being delivered.
Some were impressed with the system, with one saying: “Had a sore throat, rang for an appointment, video call was straight forward and they gave me a prescription.”
But one patient who responded said: “They want to video call, but I am no good with all this stuff and just want to see someone in person.”