COVID-19 Update for Patients

Covid and Winter up-date: November 2020

As you will appreciate, Covid has impacted considerably on our Practice and we felt that you would appreciate an up-date and to hear our plans for the winter ahead.  We are including information about some of our new systems of working and how you can work with us to minimise the impact of the virus on the services we provide.

New ways of working for the Practice staff:   please appreciate that all the innovations are putting huge pressure on the Practice staff and, in many cases, doubling the time it would normally take to deal with your problems.

  • Telephone triaging all calls – this is essential as we need to ensure that you only visit the surgery if you absolutely need to;
  • Wearing PPE – we need to be protected in order to protect you and ensure that we can keep working;
  • Decontaminating the rooms frequently – to keep you and us safe;
  • Social distancing – means reduced waiting space and a limit to how many people can be in the building at any one time … but keeps you safe;
  • Providing flu vaccinations – a huge task for the largest campaign in history to prepare for the winter;
  • Providing the new Covid vaccination – an even bigger campaign than the flu one;
  • Running a clinical trial on a new Covid vaccine;
  • Picking up work which is normally handled by hospitals and other services so that they can cope with the influx of Covid patients;
  • Coping with the large impact which Covid has had on mental health
  • Not being able to see our patients face to face, but knowing that this is inevitable at the moment.
  • Recruiting new staff including Locum GPs, additional reception and admin staff, a Health Care Assistant and a second Clinical Pharmacist.
  • And keeping up as much of the “normal service” as we can alongside all this

How you can help:

Telephone calls:  all patients asking for an appointment need to be triaged.  This is frustrating for you and for us but it is all part of the national effort to keep us safe and reduce the spread and impact of Covid.  So – when you call:

  • Before you ring for an appointment, get and use a thermometer to record your temperature.  This is key information for us in deciding when and who you need to see;
  • Please be patient if you are in the queue to be answered; before Covid we typically had 500 calls a day but now we are receiving as many as 2,500 calls each day.  Listen carefully if you are more than tenth in the queue as there is now an option for you to take action for us to call you back. (Please ensure that we have your up-to-date contact details; if you have changed your phone number there is a facility on the website for you to up date us at  .   Remember that your mobile number is the easiest one for us to use to contact you.
  • Remember that our receptionists are thoroughly trained so please provide them with as much information as you can about why you are calling. Their role is vital to identify the most appropriate person to deal with your problem.  This may not be a GP – it may be a Specialist Nurse, the Advanced Practice Physiotherapist, the Pharmacist – but it will be the appropriate person to speak with you.  You may be referred to the Hub (on the ground floor) or to one of the Covid hubs in Oxford, Banbury or Wallingford.
  • Once the receptionist has taken the details, they will be passed through to the appropriate clinician who will call you back.  Please make sure that you have your phone with you and switched on as we may not be able to keep ringing you back if you don’t answer.  NB – our number will show as “Withheld” (to protect confidentiality and certain vulnerable groups).
  • Please do not contact the surgery with queries about the age 50-64 yr old Flu or Covid vaccines. We do not have any more information on this yet but will share with you when we do (in the next few weeks). We know some practices have had their switchboards overwhelmed with queries which means that other patients who need urgent medical care cannot get through.

Video Consultations:  sometimes these are useful as we can pick up visual clues and more information than we can by speaking on the phone.  We will send you a text to start the call and ask you to make sure that your camera and audio settings are turned on.  It is advisable for you to be somewhere private and near a source of natural light (for example – if we need to look at a rash).

Text message consulting:   we have found that texting information is a quick way of contacting you or replying to you and saves clogging up the phone lines.  It is also the best way for you to send us a photograph if we need one to help with managing your problem; this can be done securely (your picture goes directly back to your GP and is attached to your record).   Please do not send images in any other way. Good advice on taking photos for medical purposes is on the  and search for “skin lesions”.

E-mailing us:  this can be a convenient way of contacting the Practice and frees up the phone lines.   There are sections there for you to contact the various teams in the surgery.   For the best responses remember to:

  • Direct your enquiry to the relevant team;
  • Provide the information requested on the form – with as much details as you can;
  • Please do not use this method for urgent queries as this poses a clinical safety risk.  The queries raised using this system are reviewed daily but cannot always be actioned on the same day.

Face-to Face consulting:   throughout the pandemic we have never stopped seeing patients face to face and we prefer this way of consulting – we really are missing the personal contact with you.   But currently we must telephone triage the calls first for the safety of both you and ourselves.  If you are asked to come for a face to face consultation then please follow the instructions which we will text you.  This will include wearing a face covering whilst at the Practice, following advice on social distancing, coming along on your own wherever possible, and not arriving too early or late!  We can only have a restricted number of patients in the building at any one time, so it is important that you follow this advice for the sake of your fellow patients.

Other sources for healthcare advice and support:

  • Covid queries: please use the NHS 111 if you think you have Covid symptoms – especially if you have a new cough, temperature or loss of smell or taste.  Please dial 119 if you require a test.
  • Minor illness:  your pharmacist can offer you advice on minor illnesses.
  • Minor eye conditions:  please see a local optician for this service.
  • Mental Health:  there are now dedicated phone lines for those struggling with their mental health.  Adults can ring 0300 123 3393; children and young people can ring 01865 902 515.  And you can refer yourself for treatment for anxiety or depression by ringing Talking Space Plus on 01865 901 222.

Hospital related queries:  please note that we can only answer queries which are related to our Practice. Calls relating to other NHS providers cannot be answered by us and can take up a valuable time for our staff and also a much-needed phone line.  If you are waiting for hospital care, then please contact them directly by telephoning the secretary of the Consultant who is caring for you; alternatively help with hospital list queries can be obtained from the Waiting List office on 01865 743399 or via the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) on 01865 221 473.

Prioritising the workload:  we know that you will understand that we need to prioritise the calls which we receive based on clinical need – paying particular attention to vulnerable groups.   This means that not all of your queries will be dealt with immediately and you may have to wait longer than normal.   Please be assured that this will happen after a clinician has assessed your problem and made sure that it is safe to do so.   We believe that it is much better and safer if your own GP deals with your problem; whenever it is safe to do so, we will make sure that you receive continuity of care.  Please do not insist on speaking to the Duty Doctor unless it is a real emergency; he/she will only be able to give you emergency advice and then ask your normal GP to follow up on your care.

Please respect our staff:  this is a time of uncertainty, fear and frustration for us all.  But it can never be acceptable to take this out on our staff who are working extremely hard in incredibly difficult conditions.  We need to remind you that our Practice adheres to the NHS Zero Tolerance Policy relating to abuse on staff.  Sadly we, like other public bodies, have seen a rise in verbal abuse towards our staff.

And finally:

These are unprecedented times.  Your Practice is working flat out to maintain a safe and quality service for you.  But the vaccines are on the horizon and we will all look forward to the day when we can get back to a more “normal” way of working.


Dr Stephen Smith and Partners

Windrush Medical Practice