GP practices across Dorset are helping to protect communities from the spread of COVID-19 by making changes to the way they work. These changes are making the most of available technology and helping to protect both staff and patients, whilst at the same time allowing patients to access primary care services.

The most significant change will be asking people not to turn up at their GP practice without an appointment, but to contact the practice by phone or online via an eConsult form which is on all the practice websites.

GPs will call patients back – please remember this might be a withheld number so be prepared to answer the phone – and can also offer video consultations.

Face to face assessments will be offered after the telephone call if needed, and clear information will be given about the time and place of these appointments. It may be at a different venue from the one you normally attend.

These changes are necessary to ensure we protect patients and staff, and enable us to maintain as much general practice as we can.

Prescriptions are being sent electronically to pharmacies. Please do not request advance prescriptions or larger quantities as this is completely unnecessary – GPs are working as usual.

Dr Karen Kirkham, Integrated Care System Clinical Lead & Assistant Clinical Chair, NHS Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “We recognise that this is a change for many people, however as everyone will be aware we are in a unique situation and the advice across the world is to reduce contact with others to help slow the impact of COVID-19.

“It is simple – by reducing personal contact with patients we can help slow the spread of the disease, help ease the pressure on services and save lives.”

Dr Forbes Watson, Chair of NHS Dorset CCG said “These are unprecedented times which are seeing all local partners working together incredibly hard in order that people can continue to receive healthcare across the county. I would like to reassure those registered with local practices that we are doing everything we can to continue to provide GP services whilst at the same time keeping our patients safe, in particular elderly patients and those with chronic disease.

“We are very proud of everyone working in primary care, and indeed across the whole health system, who continue to do so under extreme pressure, and we ask you to bear with us. The measures we have introduced and will introduce over the coming weeks will help you avoid needing to come into a surgery, and reduces the risk of infection to you, practice staff and your families.”

For advice on Coronavirus, including patients who have developed a new continuous cough and fever the advice is still to please use 111 online or by telephone if you don’t have internet access.

Please visit the website of your usual practice to find out more about how the changes may affect you.

Please listen and follow government medical advice which can be found via www.gov.uk/coronavirus.

Remember: Stay home, protect the NHS, save lives

Please note that General Practice will be working as usual on Good Friday and Easter Monday in order to support the emergency services.