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REFLECTIONS - 'Ask Your Local GP' Q&A Event

We worked in partnership with senior leaders in the NHS, including the North Central London Clinical Commissioning Group (NCL CCG), to set up an online ‘Ask your local GP’ Q&A event on 4th November 2020. The event was hugely popular as around 100 people attended it. 

Practice managers and GPs were available to answer questions from residents of Camden about how NHS services are changing and what the future holds. The session was hosted online via Zoom with a BSL interpreter. People were also able to join by phone.

The objective of our event was to help reassure local people about the provision of primary care services in Camden during the Covid-19 pandemic and to provide an opportunity for members of the public to submit questions to the expert panel.

 

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS 

The panellists began by reassuring residents that they are taking access to GP services seriously and are working hard to give people choices when they want to access GP services.

Q: Can more home video and phone calls be introduced & made permanent?

A: The future will hold a mixed model. We will use both remote and face to face methods going forward. Remote presents enormous opportunities yet we know that many patients miss seeing their GP in person.

Q: What is e-consult and how effective is it?

A: A form to communicate with your practice without having to make an appointment. It outlines your needs, and it will be reviewed by staff. You should get a response within a day. This has helped us a lot during Covid.

Q: When are GP services going to see patients again face to face as the primary mode of operation?

A: We are keen to see patients face to face, but we have to assess the risk it poses to our staff who may be exposed and get sick. We will take a practicable approach.

Q: During telephone consults, many would like to speak to their named doctor but are not often offered this opportunity. Are practices thinking of ways to address this?

A: We understand the importance of continuity of care and will try to do this amid the challenges.

"There are major differences between the first & second lockdown. During the first lockdown, the NHS shut down. During this lockdown, we are open. No one should shy away from accessing care, including routine appointments such as smears." - Dr. Neel Gupta Keats Group Practice

"Since March, our practices have established Covid-safe measures and have increased our remote/digital capabilities. We will continue to rely on these to provide GP services through the lockdown."

Q: As we enter another lockdown with rising COVID infections, what changes will patients see at GPs?

A: GPs will remain open during the lockdown and see patients remotely and in person if needed. You'll see changes that have already been in place such as increased PPE and triaging.

Q: How does a homeless person register with a GP?

A: Nearly every GP has a list of homeless patients and is trained in supporting the health of people experiencing homelessness. Homeless patients can use the practice address as their main address when registering.

"So every practicing Camden maintains a homelessness register, and that includes street homelessness, as well as people living in hostels or sofa surfing or another precarious have an equal housing situations." Dr Daniel Beck, Chair of Haverstock Healthcare GP Federation.

The ‘CHIP’ service for homelessness

Camden Health Improvement Project (CHIP) is a bespoke homelessness service in Hampstead Road. The service has been commissioned for the last few years and they register patients who are predominantly ‘street homeless’, working with patients with substance misuse issues, sexual mental health problems or those who find it difficult to engage with mainstream services. They take a holistic approach, supporting a wide range of patient’s needs. The service is co-located in the Margaret Centre. They have remained open throughout the Covid pandemic.

 

OUR REFLECTIONS

From various discussions with people (focus groups, surveys, and meetings) during the Covid-19 pandemic we have repeatedly heard about concerns about accessing primary health care services such as Dentists, GPs, and Pharmacies. These concerns were reflected at this Q&A event.

Some people told us they prefer virtual services and wanted to know if this type of healthcare would be available post-Covid. Others were eager to return to face-to-face appointments. Similarly, some were concerned about accessing health care services remotely.

This echoes the findings of our ‘Life in Lockdown’ report, where respondents told us that digital access to healthcare was particularly difficult for some, for example, those with sensory impairments or learning disabilities or mobility issues; and for people whose first language is not English.

 

RESPONSE FROM THE AUDIENCE

Fifty questions were submitted by over 100 participants that had registered for the Q&A session. Feedback from some of the seventy-three people in attendance suggests that these sessions are a useful mechanism in getting messages out into the community.

“This was the first time I attended Healthwatch and found it very interesting and informative...”

“… it was good to hear and understand the challenges and opportunities facing GP surgeries.”

“… really informative in helping explain the complex challenges facing our GP's and how patients can support them in doing their sometimes difficult job.”

 

All questions received were sent to the GP panel and NCL CCG to inform future communications with patients.

 

FUTURE CONVERSATIONS 

Healthwatch Camden will be hosting its next Hospital Q&A session on 26th January 2021 with Royal Free and UCLH Hospitals. Find out more about the event and submit your registration.

If you would like to stay updated on this session and all our future events and opportunities, please sign up to our mailing list.

 

THANK YOU 

We would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to our Chair, Saloni Thakrar, for hosting the event. We are also very grateful to all the panellists for making time to respond to a wide range of questions on the evening:

Dr. Neel Gupta (GP and member of the NCL CCG)

Amal Wicks (Practice Manager and Chair of Camden Practice Managers’ Forum)

Dr. Caz Sayer (GP and Chair of Haverstock Healthcare GP Federation)

Dr. Daniel Beck (GP and Chair of Camden Health Evolution GP Federation)

Dr. Farah Jameel (GP and Co-Chair Camden Local Medical Committee)

A full video and transcript of the event can be found here. Healthwatch Camden was also ‘live tweeting’ the event @Healthwatchcam.