THE INCREASING challenge on healthcare from the Omicron variant is currently affecting all parts of healthcare, including GP, dental, pharmacy and optometry provision, Hywel Dda health board has said in its latest press release.
GP Practices across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire remain under considerable pressure and as a result, more appointments may be offered over the telephone or online.
The board is giving the following advice to service users: “If you are asked to attend the surgery in person, please do so alone unless you need assistance, and remember to wear a face mask.
“Most Practices have online systems, such as E-Consult or Ask My GP, to allow patients to ask a non-urgent question about their health. Please see your Practice’s website for more information.
“My Health Online remains an online 24/7 option for ordering repeat medication; designed for patient convenience and especially useful for those who are self-isolating or shielding. Patients can register for this through their GP practice. Please allow extra time when ordering prescriptions.
“Telephone triage systems are in place in the majority of surgeries to ensure that a patient speaks to a clinical member of staff about their health.
“If a patient needs to be seen in person, the surgery will make an appointment with the most appropriate healthcare professional for their needs.
“Due to staffing issues we have also seen in recent weeks an impact on service pressures in community pharmacies, dentists and optometrists. We continue to work with all of our Primary Care services to make sure that we are able to provide timely and appropriate care but ask that patience and kindness is shown to staff as they are working very hard to try to deliver the services that patients can normally expect to receive from them.
“Services may vary depending on individual dental practice circumstances, please ensure that you contact your practice who will be able to advise appropriately.
“You may find that you have to wait a little longer than normal to receive your prescribed medication and we would ask that you allow seven days for any repeat medication.”
Jill Paterson, Director of Primary Care, Community and Long Term Care for Hywel Dda University Health Board said: “We wish to reassure patients that GP services are still available to you. When you contact your practice, you will speak to the most appropriate person for your condition and if you need to be seen in person, you will be given an appointment at the practice.
“It may take longer than normal to get through on the phone and you may wish to contact your doctor’s surgery online, if possible.
“We have had reports of verbal abuse targeted at Primary Care staff and this will not be tolerated; please remember they are working very hard to help their patients and we thank you for your patience at this time.
“Many conditions can be treated over the phone with advice and if required, a prescription can be issued to your nominated pharmacy. Please do not put off seeking treatment.
“Pharmacies offer a wide range of services including treatment for minor ailments. Please be aware that pharmacies are also operating at capacity and you may have to wait longer than usual.”
Responding to the latest Welsh Government press conference and the announcement of additional funding towards easing winter pressures, Darren Hughes, director of the Welsh NHS Confederation, said:
“We welcome the announcement of further funding to support health and care organisations during a time of unprecedented pressures.
“The issues in social care have not gone away but have been exacerbated by the latest wave of the virus. Health and care services continue to work together in innovative ways to both help prevent hospital admissions and support the discharge of as many medically fit patients as is possible, given the constraints.
“It’s important we recognise that all parts of the system are experiencing extreme levels of demand at a time of record high staff absences: not just in our hospitals but in GP surgeries, pharmacies and the community, too. Although Covid hospitalisations aren’t at the highest they’ve been throughout the pandemic, in part thanks to the vaccination programme, GPs are absorbing much of this demand as many patients turn to them for support with Covid symptoms.
“The coming weeks will be some of the most challenging in the NHS’ history as it seeks to absorb the pressure of the Omicron wave amid huge demand and the challenge of significant staff absences.
“This is why the NHS needs you to access services in the right place at the right time, to make sure emergency health services are available for those who need life-saving care.”