15-01-2021; eConsult Service during the COVID-19 Vaccination Programme

I am writing to let you (our patients) know about the change in our eConsult service from this weekend, 16th January 2021.  January is always our busiest month, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made our practices even busier.  As an example, last week we helped 1840 patients who requested advice from their GP via an eConsult or by telephone, reviewed and sent nearly 4000 prescriptions to the pharmacy, offered appointments with our nurses, pharmacists, musculoskeletal specialists, social prescribers and our phlebotomists, and gave more than 600 ‘flu vaccines.  We have also embarked on our COVID-19 vaccination campaign and gave more than 1000 COVID vaccines last week too, with the help of an extraordinary group of volunteers.

In order to help our teams continue delivering all of these activities, we have decided to close the ‘I want treatment and advice from my GP’ section of eConsult over the weekend.  Between Friday evening and when we open again on Monday morning you will still be able to use the ‘I want to help myself’ and ‘I want pharmacy advice’ sections, but if you think your problem warrants urgent attention from a GP before the surgery reopens you will be asked to contact NHS 111 for further advice and guidance.  For preference, we would suggest using 111 online, although if necessary you can also call 111 from any telephone.  You can also check your symptoms at 111 online.

This decision will allow us to begin work at 8am on Mondays, our busiest day of the week, dealing with our most urgent priorities, rather than first needing to review more than one hundred eConsults that have come in (on average) over the weekend.  We think that this will significantly improve the service we offer you on a Monday.  Please rest assured that the eConsult service will remain fully operational during the working week.

We are proud of the fact that the vast majority of patient requests we receive are dealt with on the same day that they are submitted, and the remainder are dealt with on the following working day.  We hope that this change to the eConsult service whilst we focus our attention on the delivery of our COVID-19 vaccination programme will allow us to maintain that record.

Dr Tom Bertram

Clinical Director, Sovereign Health Network

Highlands Practice, Jubilee and Whiteley Surgeries.