As the UK tentatively tries to get back to some kind of normal, GP surgeries will be on standby to deal with local outbreaks of COVID-19 while resuming any services that may have been paused in the last four months.
In a letter to GPs, NHS England and NHS Improvement said it was keen to see GP surgeries continuing to use remote triage and online consultations, alongside face to face care where clinically appropriate.
This central healthcare organisation wants GP surgeries to make it “clear to patients that all practice premises are open to provide care...” and that “digital consultation should be offered as standard unless there are good clinical reasons otherwise.”
For GP surgeries hanging onto ageing phone systems, the last four months must have been very painful, especially if they had to close their practice for any amount of time. Older systems simply so do not have the flexibility to offer home and remote working solutions for their healthcare and administration staff, while the cost of making multiple outbound triage calls to patients could be significant.
I have spoken to a number of surgeries during lockdown that have had to bring their telephone system upgrade plans forward to cope with the requirement for remote triage calls or have simply needed greater call capacity as patients have called in and GPs have been calling out.
Now GP surgeries need to work through the backlog of services, reviews and checks they have been unable to provide during lockdown such as shingles vaccinations for people aged 80. However, should a local lockdown occur or there is a high sickness absence level, GP surgeries will need to be flexible once again.
While the R number is relatively low, now has to be the time to upgrade telephony services before a local lockdown or a second spike occurs when we reach the colder months or surgeries naturally get busier as they head towards flu season.
Our GP surgery customers that have switched to our general practice cloud-hosted phone system have enjoyed:
- Home and remote working options by way of handsets plugged into home routers, mobiles twinned with desk handsets or mobile telephony apps
- Enhanced call capacity to accommodate an increased number of concurrent calls
- Free outgoing calls to UK landlines and mobiles, including triage calls
- Integration with patient management software, such as EMIS and SystmOne
- Call recording to check details of triage calls
- Access to unified communications apps for video calls, instant messaging and screen sharing
In sales speak, we often refer to hanging onto older technology as “sweating the asset” but now is not the time to apply this thinking. If outdated technology no longer serves your surgery or your patients, especially in these stressful times, then it is time to replace it.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of any further assistance.