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PRIMARY CARE STILL AVAILABLE DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Doctors in Oxfordshire are encouraging people to contact their local GP surgery to get medical advice if they have any concerns about their health.  GP practices are still open to care for their patients and are doing all they can to ensure patients, staff and the general public stay safe and avoid spreading COVID-19.  Digital technology is playing a key role in supporting patients and health professionals during this pandemic.  Dr Kiren Collison, Clinical Chair at Oxfordshire CCG, said: “OCCG, practices and other health services have embraced technology to deal with the challenges thrown up by coronavirus. This is to ensure we can continue to care for patients and keep both patients and staff safe.  “The new ways of providing care have also been well received by patients. They allow GPs to see and speak to patients and to understand if patients require more specialised care, for both COVID-19 and other conditions.”

Some of the digital tools which are helping GPs, staff and health partners during the pandemic include:

– Video consultations – 90 per cent of GP practices in Oxfordshire are now using video technology to carry out consultations with patients who have access to smart phones, computers or tablets. This is an effective way to provide care to some patients, reducing the risk for both patients and NHS staff being exposed inadvertently to infection as it helps reduce the number of face-to-face appointments (GPs will still see patients in their surgeries if they need to be seen). Telephone appointments and online consultations continue to be alternative options.

– The Digital Care System is being trialled at a COVID-19 clinic in Oxford City. This system, developed by Oxehealth, has been installed in five rooms at the clinic, and relies on an optical sensor to enable GPs to safely check a patient’s pulse and breathing rate measurements without being in the room.

– Patients in hospital and care homes have been seeing and talking to family and friends by using tablet computers. This has helped them stay in contact while visiting is restricted.

– Oxfordshire CCG is using the video conferencing platform Microsoft Teams to communicate regularly with GPs, clinicians and health partners to inform them of changes to local health services and provide updates on national initiatives that may affect patient care locally.

– More text messages are being sent by GP practices to patients about changes to services during the pandemic.

– Local GPs have more laptops as part of a national NHS initiative to enable them to work from home.

Helen Shute, Chief Executive Officer at GP federation OxFed, said: “We’re very pleased with the roll out of the Digital Care Assistant equipment in the COVID-19 clinic in East Oxford. It allows patients to receive a diagnosis quickly and in a safe environment which also protects clinicians. This initiative reflects the advancements and achievements the health service is making on our behalf during this pandemic.”