Dr Tim Dalton, Local GP and Chair of NHS Wigan Borough CCG
Shops are open. Pubs are open. Restaurants, hairdressers and gyms are open. Wandering around the town centres across the Borough, you begin to get a vague feeling of normality.
It isn’t however normality as we know it. Everything just has that slightly distorted twinge to it, like a confusing dream that is so close to real life, but not quite there.
As we start to see more patients face-to-face in GP practices, you will experience the same off-kilter feeling in them too and I want you to be prepared, so that you aren’t too disconcerted. This is particularly important for people who are living with dementia or those with learning disabilities or autism, or anyone that deeply struggles with change.
However, in order to keep you safe when we invite you into GP practices, we have to change the way GP practices look and work.
You can probably guess what this means!
Please make sure that you only go when you are expected. If when you get there the doors are shut, this doesn’t mean that the practice isn’t open. Read the signs or follow the instructions you have been given to get access. As with shops, and other places, we need to carefully manage the number of people who are in the practice reception at any time.
When you enter, you will be asked to wash your hands or use hand sanitiser. Whilst you are at the practice, please touch as little as possible and don’t touch your face if you can help it (I have discovered during COVID how much we all normally touch our faces!).
Wear a mask if you can. We are now all being asked to wear masks in shops and hospitals, and you should wear one in all health care places unless there is a good reason not to, for example dementia or autism, amongst others. I appreciate it isn’t nice to wear a mask, but you will get used to it and it will help reduce the spread of the virus.
When you get into reception, there will be screens and barriers to keep our staff safe from infection. Please respect the barriers and keep your distance.
You may also struggle to see our staff’s normal smiles as most of the team will be wearing masks a lot of the time. If you are deaf and rely on lip reading, please let the member of staff know. We have hearing loops in place on receptions and can arrange for British Sign Language translation via an app if we know in advance.
Whether or not you can see their mouths or their smiles, GP Practice staff will be doing their best to support you, so please be kind to them and to other patients who are there.
Regardless of all of these safety measures, we still want you to only come to the practice when you are expected, for example, if you have an appointment or have been asked to pick up a prescription or drop off a sample. The fewer people we have in the space at any one time, the safer it is for everyone.
Thank you for your understanding and stay safe everyone.