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Patient Participation Group

Newsletter June 2022 / Johns blog

See John’s experience below.

Fern House, a little while ago, had a new phone system installed which replaced the old “out of date” system. I recently called to make an appointment and was 28th in the queue, which although sounds high, it at least gave me an idea on how long I was to wait. This in turn gave me the choice to hang on or call back later. I hung on and got through in about 20 minutes. The time however, was not wasted as I did 20 minutes work while waiting. Fern House have experienced teething problems with the new system but once identified have been resolved. The bottom line to me is getting through at peak times or early mornings, can take time so if your call is not urgent, call later, but if you do call at a peak time at least you know where you are in the queue.

When my call was answered I was asked by the receptionist a few relevant questions to determine who best I should talk to or see. Receptionist have been trained to do this as not everyone requires a consultation with a GP e.g. a Nurse Practitioner or Physiotherapist may be better placed to treat you.

Thinking into the future the Covid Pandemic has changed the way GPs operate and I do not believe they will return to the old normal. For decades we have had a GP shortage which has not been addressed by successive Governments. It takes 10 years to train a GP so the solution is not a quick one. To ease the situation this is what can we all do:

  • Accept the fact that you may not see a GP
  • Only book an emergency appointment if it is actually an emergency
  • Remember a pharmacist may well be able to resolve your issue
  • If you cannot make your appointment, do CANCEL it
  • An appointment is for 10 minutes and for one thing only so prepare and be succinct
  • As from mid June you will be offered the choice of a telephone or face to face consultation
  • Remember the practice is always extremely busy so be patient and under no circumstance be abusive to staff who are trying to help you.

Newsletter May 2022

In the previous newsletter we were anticipating the resumption of face to face meetings so it is pleasing to report that the first meeting for two years took place on March 17th. This newsletter reflects the discussion at that meeting. The next planned meeting will be later in the year. See the website for updates.

Not all surgeries have the new updated telephone system now installed at Fern.

The break in face to face meetings has enabled us to rethink some aspects of our PPG and so we have developed some ideas around terms of reference so that we can see directions for the future particularly as we move into ever new health organisational arrangements. (Integrated Care Systems covering all of south and mid Essex)

One of the key areas we would like to improve is membership of and participation in the group. Many people cannot attend meetings but we think that more could become involved by accessing the newsletters on the Fern website and sending in ideas.

General practice looks very different after two years of telemedicine and we are all learning new ways of gaining health advice and treatment. While many users of the service at Fern are enthusiastic about receiving a call rather than taking time off work, others are not as keen. We all acknowledge that times are changing and that the pandemic has had a profound effect. Appointments are available and in some cases following a phone call from a doctor or nurse you will be asked to come into the surgery.

Please be aware that receptionists work to guidance issued by doctors to ask questions about your reason for contacting the surgery and this is done to help you get a speedy response. Unfortunately online appointments are not practical at the moment.

Some changes in the provision of hospital services are also coming into focus. Did you know that a ‘virtual’ hospital exists to treat people at home rather than in hospital?

A virtual bed is your own bed at home but the staff who visit you are 100% real! So far this is small in numbers.

People get better and rehabilitate more rapidly when at home but receiving all the health services they would normally have only in hospital.

If anyone has had this experience we would like to hear from you.

If you are waiting for hospital treatment you will soon be able to access a service called My Planned Care. Don’t worry if you don’t do technology, if you have been on a waiting list for a while you will get a call from the Referral Support Service part of the well being system, checking how you are doing. It is still possible to move to another hospital for treatment but you would then be on their waiting list not the local one.

Staff changes : a new GP to replace Dr Summers who has retired. We welcome Dr Mohammad and best wishes to Dr Summers; 2 Care Coordinators working with nursing homes in the area covered by Fern and partner practices in the PCN; (Primary Care Network); A new deputy practice manager to increase the administrative team in support of increased workloads related to the PCN.

The PPG asked for quicker updating of information on the website as it can be frustrating when patients cannot get the correct guidance.

They also asked about systems for checking information when it appears something has been missed and were assured that a robust method is in place.

Email to add your questions 

Fern PPG (Patient Participation Group). Newsletter Winter 2021 / Spring 2022

Like many groups the PPG has been suspended during the Covid pandemic but we intend to resume meetings in 2022. Liaison with the NHS and voluntary activity have continued and updates are included below.

If PPG is a new term to you here is a brief explanation. Since 2015 General Practices have been required to have a PPG to ensure regular communication with registered patients. These groups meet regularly either online and / or face to face in order to work together with doctors and managers to better respond to the issues raised by patients. It is not a complaints forum as these are handled by the Practice Manager or PALS services.

Many of you have been asking ‘when will things be back to normal’. So much about daily life has changed that would have been unimaginable two years ago. The NHS has been very much in the news throughout this period but vaccination is allowing us to move to a new normal.

Volunteering for the NHS has been a positive feature of this last couple of years. A huge thanks to Fern staff and 70 volunteers who have worked so hard to make the Witham vaccination programme so successful. Thanks also to local firms who have fed volunteers and even provided Easter eggs. The newly formed alliances of general practices (Primary Care Networks) were central to the planning of vaccinations. Three local primary schools have also helped to celebrate this achievement by their art work illustrating how children have experienced the pandemic. We hope to see more of their work at an exhibition to be held in the Witham Town Hall in February.

Many people have rediscovered the joy of gardening but doctors also recognise the therapeutic effects of fresh air, company and physical activity. Volunteers have also been clearing parts of Fern garden so that doctors can refer patients to a gardening project designed to act as an alternative to traditional prescriptions. Members of the PPG have successfully raised the funds for equipment and planting to enable this to happen.

Find out more about the PPG on email

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