Like today, sometimes our triage list reaches capacity very quickly, which is a combination of heavy winter demand, staff sickness/self-isolation and coronavirus pressures.
Coronavirus affects us in primary care in multiple ways.
Firstly, there are sick patients who may have the virus who we need to assess.
Secondly, because other asymptomatic patients may still be infected, we need to wear PPE and perform cleaning before and after patients. The process of seeing someone face-to-face takes around twice as long as it did before the pandemic.
Thirdly, because routine hospital services are heavily restricted and many referrals are being rejected or delayed, we are managing much more ourselves in the community.
This is time-consuming because a lot of this work is testing the limits of our expertise; we are spending more time liaising with specialists about the best course of action for various cases because the usual outpatient clinics are no longer happening.
The number of coronavirus cases in Doncaster and the number of patients in Doncaster Royal Infirmary are both increasing rapidly. As the hospital postpones and restricts more routine services, primary care will be impacted further.
We really want you all to know that we are trying our best to provide the best care we can over the winter. We have increased our workforce to cope with increasing call volumes and used more locum doctors to bolster the service than ever before, but that itself is not financially sustainable. We have provided two Saturday flu clinics to help manage the higher numbers of people needing vaccines this year.
But we can only do so much and we are not immune from illness, nor are we exempt from rules for self-isolation or childcare responsibilities when our children have to self-isolate.
Please be aware that we will most likely have these capacity issues as we go further and further into the winter months; the pressure on all NHS systems are made worse by the Coronavirus, and sadly things are going to get worse before they get better.
It’s a tough time for everyone, but particularly for the most vulnerable in society. We will continue to do our best. Thank you for your understanding.