An open letter to our patients 

The past 15 months, since March last year it has been a very challenging time for patients, as well as the team here at Kingswood Surgery as we have adapted to deal with the changing circumstances of confronting the COVID pandemic.

During this time, we adopted new ways of working and social distancing to keep everyone safe, including the introduction of telephone consultations. We have also provided the option for patients to have on-line consultations.

Throughout this period, our doors have remained open and we have been providing face-to-face nursing and doctors’ appointments when clinically necessary.

From December until earlier this month we have played a key role in setting up and contributing to the delivery effort of Tunbridge Well’s COVID vaccinations initiative; providing clinicians, management and administrative support to ensure as many people as possible could be vaccinated as soon as possible.

To date, over 40,000 vaccinations have been delivered from two sites; alongside our normal work here at the practice.

Our team has been working hard throughout the pandemic; contributing to the effort of the mass vaccinations, as well as dealing with the business-as-usual responsibilities of providing front-line primary care.

However with the promise of easing the lockdown, demand for our services have not diminished; but in fact are increasing, as pent-up demand begins to assert itself.

As a practice, we are finding that we are being asked to deal with relatively minor issues on an urgent basis; patients are wishing to discuss multiple problems within one appointment or are telephoning us about hospital-related matters such as the long waiting time for a response to a referral, rather than following the correct route of contacting the hospital directly. 

In addition, our on-line and telephone consultations have increased the daily workload.

We wish to assure you that when the doctors are not dealing directly with patients they are sending referrals, reading letters received from consultants about the care you have received, or are receiving; and arranging any follow ups required, such as reviewing test results and signing repeat medication prescriptions.

Whilst there are signs that things are beginning to return to normality, there is some way to go before it is achieved. Hospitals and consultants are not running at previous levels of capacity; things are still taking a longer time to arrange, whilst diagnoses and follow ups are taking longer time to return to us.

We care about our patients and recognise the frustrations you feel about waiting to get through on the phone. We know that our appointments get filled quickly but we do not have the resource to do more than we are doing.

Our health service is recovering as much as we are from this pandemic.

The government has plans to help the backlog in hospitals, but no such plans to help General Practice with this issue of capacity not meeting the current demand.

Our doctors are conscious of the importance of this work to you. As a consequence, they are working harder and longer days in order to fit this all in.

However, we can only achieve so much and we are mindful that these practices are not sustainable and have the potential to lead to unsafe working and burnout within our team. And we must recognise that our primary care teams will have a brief respite before the onset of the flu season, for which we are already preparing.

We are so grateful for all the kind words of thanks and appreciation from so many of you, but we are increasingly saddened by the rise in the amount of abuse that our staff have all experienced in recent weeks and months.

The scarcity of resources currently in general practice is a national, as well as, historical problem and not something faced by Kingswood alone.  We ask for your help to provide the best service we can and ensure we can support those patients who are in most urgent clinical need.

Urgent clinical need means that a patient’s condition is such that, if not given priority, their condition will rapidly worsen and their health deteriorate.

What can you do to help us?

Current waiting times for a routine face to face appointment is between 2-3 weeks, although telephone consultations are available and are prioritised in urgent situations.

Therefore, we ask that when you do have an urgent clinical need, you do let us know and explain your position to help us direct our resources to where they are really needed.

Even in the event your ailment or condition is not assessed as urgent, our reception teams are able to assist with you finding the right help, by sign-posting you to other health professionals, who may be able to help you quicker.

We have a clinical pharmacist who can advise on medication queries about dosage and side effects.

Our receptionist can book appointments directly with a physiotherapist, a physician’s associate (who can do everything a doctor does but can’t issue a script) and a nurse prescriber.

Finally, for minor ailments and injuries please consider approaching other service providers, such as the pharmacy, before you contact the surgery.

By doing these things, you will be greatly helping us in returning to our service back to full health and recovery.

Thank you all for your understanding at this challenging time.

Published: Jun 29, 2021