General practice this winter – helping people get the care they need

The Covid-19 pandemic means that general practices in North Central London are busier than ever, and they continue to work incredibly hard to offer patients the right support. Our practices are currently providing 15-30% more appointments than before the pandemic. This is alongside the incredible work that primary care has been doing to deliver the Covid vaccination programme – with more than 1 million vaccines delivered by primary care so far.

When booking an appointment with your GP, you may be offered a telephone or online appointment. This is to help reduce the spreading Covid-19 infection – for both patients and staff. However, please be assured that face-to-face appointments, including home visits, are being offered when this is clinically necessary. Currently, around 50% of GP appointments in North Central London are face to face.

If you need an appointment, please contact your practice by telephone or online consultation form. If you cannot do this, you can visit your practice to book an appointment via reception, but this will not mean you are offered an earlier appointment. Appointments are allocated based on clinical urgency.

Our message to local residents is not to delay seeking help, especially for urgent medical matters, maternity concerns, or if you have a symptom that could be cancer. Residents are also encouraged to take up any screening appointments or vaccinations that are offered, as these help to prevent future illness.

Frequently asked questions

We are asking that people do not call their GP practice to ask about Covid vaccinations or boosters – your practice will contact you or these can be booked on the National Booking System or obtained via walk in sites.

People should still contact their surgery if they need care. For the latest information on Covid-19 and to book a vaccination appointment please visit www.nhs.uk or call 119. 

General practices are continuing to ‘triage’ patients – which means determining whether a patient could be supported without needing to come in to the surgery. This is to help keep staff and patients safe and prevent the spread of Covid-19, particularly in smaller buildings with small waiting rooms.

Many practices in North Central London are continuing to triage appointments in some way to ensure that people get the help they need in the most appropriate and safest way. When you get in touch with your practice to make an appointment, you will be asked a series of questions in order to decide if you need: 

  • to be seen in person
  • a phone consultation
  • a video consultation
  • help from a community pharmacy

However, please be assured that face-to-face appointments, including home visits, are being offered when this is clinically necessary. Currently, around 50% of general practice appointments in North Central London are face to face.

Practices are being supported with specific training on infection prevention and control, to enable even those small practices to operate more safely. 

Although online, video and telephone consultations can be convenient and flexible ways to receive healthcare, we know that these aren’t appropriate for everyone.  

Face-to-face appointments continue to be available. If you have a preference that your consultation is carried out face-to-face then please talk to your practice.  If you do need to attend the practice in person please wear a face mask and socially distance where possible. 

There has also been targeted work in all of our boroughs to support digital inclusion, for example, Healthwatch in Haringey were commissioned to deliver support to communities experiencing barriers to using digital tools, by delivering training in public spaces community libraries.

This is very important area of work for us. We are working closely with our general practices to create more capacity and appointments, to upgrade telephone and other systems, and to ensure virtual appointments are accessible for more people. For practices that have particular issues, such as smaller premises or workforce challenges, to identify support that will help them.

This winter, we are providing additional capacity in extended access hubs – our hubs provide appointments in evenings and on weekends and bank holidays. You can find out more here. We are also increasing capacity for local NHS 111 calls. 

The government recently published ‘Our plan for improving access for patients and supporting general practice’, with a £250 million ‘Winter Access Fund’. We are now developing plans with our primary care colleagues to use the funding North Central London receives to improve access for residents to primary care in North Central London.

Many GP practices now include a range of qualified medical professionals (e.g. advanced nurse practitioners, pharmacists) who can also diagnose and treat health conditions. Other members of the primary care clinical team, supporting patients alongside the GP, help ensure that you see the right person at the right time more quickly.

If you need help with minor injuries at any time or urgent care when your GP practice or community pharmacy is closed, visit 111.nhs.uk or dial 111 if you do not have internet access. GP practices also offer same day appointments for those with an urgent, but not life-threatening, need, including for young children.

Visit www.nhs.uk for advice on common symptoms and a list of local services or speak to your community pharmacist first for advice on minor illnesses. Find your nearest: nhs.uk/service-search/find-a-pharmacy/.

Always dial 999 in a life-threatening emergency.

If you have any questions about primary care in North Central London, please get in touch with us: Nclccg.communications@nhs.net