Pretty much back to normal’ - Demand at GP surgeries rises in Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 06:00 07 August 2020

St Stephen's Gate Medical Practice, in Wessex Street, Norwich. Picture; Brittany Woodman

St Stephen's Gate Medical Practice, in Wessex Street, Norwich. Picture; Brittany Woodman


A Norwich GP said demand for services is “back to normal or higher” as new figures showed the number of appointments jumped in June.

Dr Jeanine Smirl, GP for St Stephen's Gate Medical Practice. Picture:NWCCGDr Jeanine Smirl, GP for St Stephen's Gate Medical Practice. Picture:NWCCG

NHS Digital data shows patients booked 430,440 appointments with practices in the NHS Norfolk and Waveney CCG area in June – 25pc more than in May.

Dr Jeanine Smirl, from St Stephen’s Gate Practice, Norwich, said there had been an increase in demand, in part to the online platform Footfall which has received 446,077 enquiries this year.

Dr Smirl, who is also clinical director for Norwich Primary Care Network (NPCN), said; “The demand has increased, there was a little bit of a lull when Covid first started, everyone was slightly afraid or they were trying to protect us.

“Demand is pretty much back to normal, if not higher.”

Despite the increase, NHS figures showed the number of appointments was still 11pc fewer for the same time in June last year, with demand in May falling by 33pc.

Dr Smirl said: “I don’t understand how anyone could say that it is quieter than it’s been because its definitely not quieter. If you’re comparing waiting times to see a GP now compared to before, that might be different, but it doesn’t mean we’re quieter, we’re managing our workload in a different manner.”

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One of those way is a triage first approach by talking to all patients before bringing them in.

She said: “I can say to you I am doing a surgery and at least half of them will be face to face. I don’t think people quite realise that. If we can’t manage something over the telephone we will be bringing patients in.

“We, in particular are using this lull period where there is a low rate of Covid to get everybody in who needs to come in, just in case in two or three months time we can’t bring them in safely.”

The Royal College of GPs says demands at surgeries could soon surpass pre-crisis levels with the Patients Association warning remote sessions must not become “the new normal” without assessing the benefits to patients.

In Norfolk, 36pc of sessions were completed over the phone in June, up from just 11pc a year ago. Nationally the figure was 48pc, a rise from 13pc last year according to NHS figures.

Dr Smirl said increasing remote consultation had been something they had been trying to achieve for “some time”.

She said: “It’s been slow. It’s been something we have been wanting to do and the resistance has been both ways.

“Because of Covid it has suddenly created the urgency for a lot of this these things to happen.”

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