GP practices move to protect against coronavirus with more phone and video appointments Image: Africa-Studio-AdobeStock_87768938.

Those contacting GPs will have an initial telephone assessment

GP practices across Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes (BLMK) are moving to protect their patients and staff against coronavirus by reducing visits into surgeries and switching to telephone and video appointments wherever they can.

Patients with concerns about coronavirus are being asked to follow government advice, rather than contact their GP practice. If you, or anyone in your household, have a high temperature or a new and continuous cough, however mild, stay at home and go to to check symptoms and follow the specialist medical advice.

You can also contact the NHS 111 online coronavirus service. Only call 111 if you cannot get online or if your symptoms worsen.

Patients who contact their local practice for an appointment with a GP or nurse will have an initial telephone assessment and could then be booked in for a follow-up consultation. Wherever possible, this consultation will be over the phone or by video.

Anyone who needs to be seen in person by a doctor or nurse will be offered an appointment at the surgery or possibly an alternative site, as long as there’s no risk to patients or staff.

Practices will review appointments that are already booked-in, and will contact patients about changing this to a phone or video appointment where appropriate.

In light of this new approach, many practices are not accepting online bookings.

Ordering repeat prescriptions

Patients are still being encouraged to use online services for ordering repeat prescriptions and checking medical records.

Practices aim to send all prescriptions, including repeat prescriptions, through the electronic prescription service (EPS) to the patient’s nominated pharmacy.

Patients without a nominated pharmacy can choose one online or ask their usual pharmacy to set this up.

If your prescription can’t be sent through EPS to a nominated pharmacy you will need to contact the GP practice by telephone or online.

Dr Nicola Smith is clinical chair for the three Clinical Commissioning Groups serving BLMK. She said:

“In keeping with the government’s approach to protect people against coronavirus, our GP practices are moving to a new way of working by eliminating all but essential contact with others. Our priority is to make sure that our GPs, nurses and wider teams in practices remain available to support patients and, while more of that support will be over the phone or by video, our practices are still open and will be arranging to see patients where needed.

“We urge people to protect themselves and others – particularly those who are most vulnerable – by following government advice around coronavirus and not coming into practices unless they have a confirmed arrangement to do that. Everyone has a role to play, so follow the advice: stay at home. Only leave home for the very limited purposes outlined by the government and when you do leave home practise social distancing. This will help protect the NHS so that services are there for those who really need them. By doing this we can help keep everyone safe.

“Finally, I would encourage people to be considerate of others when buying over-the-counter medicines, such as paracetamol, and only get as much as you need. If everyone is sensible there is enough to go around.”

Although GP practices are still registering new patients, generally patients are being asked to support NHS GP services by not moving practice during the current emergency.