D day in this case stands for the Delta variant.  The current expectation, as I am sure you have heard, is for a significant expansion in patient numbers for hospitalisation and death from this variant as we move towards August and beyond.  It is for this reason we wanted to explain how we see things working at The Vale, in order to provide as much protection for you and our staff as we seek to provide you with the most effective service we can.

It has been a very difficult time for all of us, and many of you have not wanted to come to the practice for non-serious ailments because of the potential risk of catching the virus, and consequently there is a large backlog of queries and demand for appointments - in some cases, 18 months’ worth.  Many of you have been required to isolate, and is also the case for some of our staff, further increasing pressure on colleagues.  There are other pressures as we enter the main holiday period, and we have staff who have worked tirelessly during the pandemic who together with their families also need a break.  Then shortly after the summer period when schools return, we are expecting to have to provide a Covid booster jab from September, and most likely to be together with the Flu vaccine - it is going to be a very busy autumn!

The main advice continues to be:

  • ensure you are double vaccinated as soon as possible
  • still wash your hands frequently
  • keep fresh air circulating
  • wear a mask in crowded settings.

Even with a double vaccine you are still not guaranteed not to catch Covid, it is just that the effects should largely be reduced, and likely to prevent hospitalisation. 

Remember… there is currently NO SUCH THING AS GUARANTEED 100% IMMUNITY

So how are we going to operate in practice?  Although the law will no longer require the wearing of masks, we would respectfully request you do wear one when coming to the practice to protect our staff and other patients. 

There have been complaints that we have not answered the phone quickly enough, or that appointments have gone too quickly.  This is evidence of the increase in demand for services, and in an effort to reduce the pressure for you to call the practice, we will from 19th July, make a proportion of our appointments bookable from 9 pm the night before for doctors and our advanced nurse practitioner appointments.

There will be some limited waiting space inside, but depending on numbers, some may be required to wait outside where we will provide additional seating.  Your temperature will still be taken before entering the building.

We plan for 30% of appointments to be face to face, and will try to ensure at least four staff answering the phone lines first thing each morning.  We really hope this will make a difference in phone queueing time!  Incidentally, we are moving our phone lines to a fibre connection imminently, and this should improve the quality of the call and prevent calls from ‘dropping off’. Please remember that you can also call NHS 111 for advice when we are closed or have no appointments available.

For those hoping to go abroad this summer, please note that in most cases you will need 2 jabs (currently 8 weeks apart), and for the last one to be more than 2 weeks before departure.  We are still offering Pfizer and Astra Zeneca jabs on a weekly basis at the jabbing centre.  Anyone not had a jab yet needs to think of an earliest fly date of something like 20th August.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your patience during this pandemic period, but also to remind you that an appointment is for the main item that concerns you.  You may have more than one, but we ask you to prioritise what is most urgent. There are just 10 minutes for your doctor’s appointment and a lot to get through in that time, so attending to your main issue is the priority.

If we increased the length of appointment time to provide you with more time, we would then have less appointments to offer!  We do frequently review our appointment structure and make changes where it seems appropriate, but please bear with us as we move through the busier than usual summer period.  We will continue to do our best for you, and hope that will suffice. 

Importantly, urgent stuff and concerns about a child will always be a priority.

Hoping you have a very good summer (and shame about the football!).

Kind regards

Nick Barnes

Practice Manager

13 July 2021