We appreciate that these are difficult times and the world around us is changing at an extraordinary rate. The last three weeks at Fort House Surgery have seen quite dramatic change in the way we work and we wanted to update you all of developments at the surgery.
Fort House Surgery remains open as usual for business, but just in a different way. In line with the rest of the UK we have had to suspend all non-essential work for a short period, such as minor surgery, routine checks and some immunisations, such as shingles. However we remain open for core GP services including urgent care, childhood immunisations, wound care, essential phlebotomy (for instance drug monitoring) and nursing services.
Many will have noticed that we are now operating from behind a closed front door. This is in line with the new social distancing guidelines. It has also become quickly apparent that the COVID-19 virus causes a large amount of asymptomatic or mild illness. It is essential that we re-design our service to avoid becoming a vehicle to transmit the virus to our more vulnerable patients (one of the problems in the 1918/21 Influenza pandemic being hospitals spreading the infection).
Therefore you can now only contact the surgery in the traditional way, by telephone on 01932 253055, or online, using our new website. Our online service allows you to request repeat prescriptions, or visit the admin area for letters, sick notes etc, or ask a doctor a question and set up an on-line, video or telephone consultation. We are available for appointments but they will be handled remotely at first and face to face only if absolutely necessary. We were in the process of making a change to digital consulting before the pandemic; in an in-house survey 63% of you said that you preferred it as your needs could be met without coming in to the surgery. We were beginning to make changes to support this and the current pandemic has forced us to adapt much more urgently than expected.
Any patients who require a face to face appointment will be screened for risk of active COVID-19 infection. Patients with a suspected infection will be seen outside the surgery, in our garden tents. You will be asked to wait outside in the car park (please stay in your cars, or observe the 2 metre social distancing guidelines). Non-infectious patients will be seen in the usual surgery rooms, but no-one will be allowed inside the surgery without a temperature check and screening at the front door. Doctors and nurses will be wearing full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for every patient contact inside or outside the surgery.
Please help us in trying to minimise the footfall to the surgery by using the electronic prescriptions (EPS) and repeat ordering service via your pharmacies, or on-line services through our website. You can contact us through the website to nominate a pharmacy that you can pick your prescriptions up from to minimise future visits to the surgery. Please continue to observe the social distancing and restrictions as advised by the UK Government. It is the most powerful tool we have to control the rate of infection, and it saves lives.
We are acutely aware that all of our lives are affected, with or without the infection. In the last three weeks we feel we have prepared very well at the surgery, and we are ready for the expected “spike” in cases. We are actively working with our partner surgeries in the local Primary Care Network (Weybridge and Hersham) to coordinate our response to the infection and centralise some of our services, as well as share staffing where affected by illness or quarantine.
Any natural disaster is a time of anxiety and worry and it is natural to be fearful. Reassuringly the absolute individual risk of serious complications remains low. It is important to think of your own mental health during the period of quarantine, and consider the needs of others. Please remember that anyone can self refer to Surrey IAPT services for counselling: https://www.healthysurrey.org.uk/mental-wellbeing/adults/local-services.
There has never been a better time to concentrate on your physical health too, so please eat healthily, exercise regularly, moderate any alcohol consumption and consider stopping smoking (https://www.healthysurrey.org.uk/smoking).
If you are experiencing any personal or financial hardships as a result of the “lockdown” you can reach our partners at Citizens Advice Elmbridge West https://www.caew.org.uk/.
For anyone who is self isolating and in need of help such as shopping or advocacy services, Surrey County Council can be contacted at https://www.surreycc.gov.uk/people-and-community/emergency-planning-and-community-safety/coronavirus for support.
Wishing you all the very best of health through the pandemic, and beyond.
The Partners of Fort House Surgery