Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Letter to Editor on behalf of local GPs

With increasing circulation of COVID-19 in the community, the NHS in Northern Ireland is facing its greatest challenge since its inception.

 Your local GP surgery is at the forefront of this and we are experiencing unprecedented pressure. To allow us to continue to treat you and the most vulnerable and sick in our society, and to help stem the spread of coronavirus within our community, the way in which we deliver care to you has to change.  

Nearly all GP surgeries across Northern Ireland have moved to a telephone triage system.  This means that patients who feel they need to see their GP, practice nurse or other health professional for a routine or new appointment will phone surgeries in the usual way. They will then be assessed over the phone as to whether they need a face-to-face appointment and those deemed in need will be allocated one.  This is already happening in some practices but will be a new way of utilising your GP surgery for many patients.  This system will allow us to continue to treat you as best we can while protecting you and our staff from the spread of coronavirus.

If you feel you have COVID-19, do not go to your GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.  The initial symptoms of the virus are a high temperature and/or new continuous cough.  If you have either of these, everyone in your household must stay at home for 14 days. You can ring NHS 111 for information or advice and they will help you decide if you need to contact your GP. 

We are also hearing distressing reports of frontline staff working in GP practices, hospitals and pharmacies being abused by members of the public.  This must stop. We understand that this is a frightening time for everyone, but we are all in this together. Please be patient with everyone who works in frontline health services as they are doing their best to help and support you in stressful conditions. 

This is an unprecedented and fast-moving situation.  We urge you to cooperate with this new way of accessing your GP surgery for the greater good of your community. 

We are all in this together.  Support us to treat you as best we can.

Dr Alan Stout, Chair, BMA’s Northern Ireland General Practitioners Committee

Dr Conor Moore, Chair, Southern Local Medical Committee