As I’m sure we are all aware our practice and the NHS are going through a challenging time as we continue to face limitations and staffing problems due to the pandemic while trying to restore services and deal with the back log. We appreciate that you have been incredibly patient in this time - we are very fortunate to have such amazing patients! We’re sorry for any times when we haven’t been able to meet your expectations as we try and get things right.

We have had a big increase in patients contacting us through online routes in recent months which is great. Thank you to those of you who have taken the time to complete e-consultations which give us much more information to help us respond appropriately. We want to make our service as responsive and safe as possible. On some days we can receive very large numbers of e-consultations in a short space of time and over a week we get hundreds. Obviously these cover a wide range of problems from urgent  through to routine. Up until now we have been trying to respond to all of these by the end of the next working day, but as there is no limit to the number of e-consultations we can receive in a day there have been some days we haven’t been able to do so.

We’re therefore making some changes to keep things safe and responsive. Firstly, we will not be providing patient access appointments for direct booking online any more. We’re sorry if this is an inconvenience for those used to using this system, but we feel this is the best route to take. This is because e-consult provides a similar service, but is safer. Most importantly the e-consult system will warn you if you need to seek urgent attention, but it is also beneficial in that it gives us much more information when we receive it so we can prioritise your care appropriately.

Secondly, we’re changing how we prioritise the e-consultations we do receive. One of our clinicians will read and triage every e-consultation by the end of the next working day. As much as possible we will respond to you within that period as well (by email, phone, SMS or by arranging an appointment), but sometimes we will need to book a phone or face to face appointment in the next few days. The timing of these next steps will depend on how urgent the clinician feels your problem is and also on who would be the best person to deal with it. We may feel it’s best to wait a few days to speak to a clinician whom you have spoken to before or someone who is more experienced in that area. We will send you a text when we triage the appointment so you’ll know what the plan we’ve made is. If the appointment we suggest isn’t at a suitable time we’re of course happy to change this without you submitting another e-consult. If you are concerned that the outcome of the triage is not meeting your needs we can reassess.

We really hope these changes will allow give us the flexibility to respond to all urgent problems quickly and fairly and remain responsive even when we receive high volumes of requests. We’re going to be revaluating these changes at the end of August and checking how long you are all waiting for responses to e-consults. We will continue to review the process and make changes to make the system work as well as possible.