A Croydon GP says doctors are fed up with being “punched in the teeth” over face-to-face appointments and claimed telephone appointments were putting less pressure on surgeries.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit last year, GP surgeries across the country started to offer telephone appointments as standard, often before seeing patients face-to-face.
Patients are still being offered a face-to-face appointment if doctors feel it is needed.
Dr Lydia Osei-Boateng of Hartland Way Surgery in Shirley says this way of working has helped her spend more time with patients in-person. She has been a GP since 2009.
She said: “It has been quite overwhelming there was a public perception of GPs that we closed, but we were running throughout.
“We were getting so oversubscribed even before the pandemic so now using other ways of contacting patients has helped us.
“Texting test results has worked wonders – we don’t necessarily have to tell somebody a normal result face-to-face, we can do that over the phone.
“When you are able to manage patients on the phone, everybody is happy. They get given a time frame for a call and you are not in a rush so can give them more care.
“If I need to bring somebody in, I can give them more time without having to rush the appointment in 10 minutes, we can take 20 or even 30 minutes if needed.
“I am not under the pressure of having a waiting room full of people.
“My patient population is mainly elderly people and it has been lovely to be able to give them the time.”
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Despite telephone consultations freeing up some time, she says the practice has been busier than ever as many people held off calling the doctor during the pandemic.
And the relentless pressure is taking its toll on GPs who are working long hours and even taking extra work home.
Dr Osei-Boateng said: “I have a colleague who wants to take a year sabbatical, this is someone who has worked for more than 20 years.
“I wonder where it is going, we have low morale at the moment, it comes from being punched in the teeth by the media, there is the attitude that we are all lazy.
“It is tough, I don’t feel we get enough respect. It is hard when you turn on the TV and hear people saying we can’t get face-to-face appointments.
“Some practices were already doing consultations online or over the phone before the pandemic, but now we are all able to use different methods.”
Lately, she says, patients with Covid-19 have been calling who think they haven’t got the virus after having a negative lateral flow test which can be done at home in 30 minutes.
She urges people to get to a test centre or do a home PCR test if they have symptoms as they are more reliable.
As we go into winter the Croydon doctor fears cases will continue to increase.
She said: “I think that the outcome and prognosis for patients is better than it was, the medications that they use in hospital are working.
“I have seen a lot of patients coming out of hospital with Covid pneumonia. It is still there and it’s still dangerous.”