This time yesterday I was in Plaistow, East London and while Cockney rhyming slang is spoken in these parts, you are as likely to hear any of a dozen East European or South Asian languages on the street. It’s quite deprived and extraodinarily diverse.
I was visiting Balaam St Surgery. As anyone knows in general practice, it is pandemonium first thing in the morning when the phones go over. So here’s what Nihul on reception told me:
“We only had three phone calls between 8 and 9 this morning”
That dog and bone just lay there.
Practice manager Divya came out to ask what was not going on. This is week 7 and the numbers have subsided as they keep giving out the same message:
“Do you have an email address?” – yes
“Do you have a smartphone or internet?” – yes
“Can I tell you about a shortcut to get help from the GP?” – yes
Then they show them the practice website, click askmyGP and take it from there. 80% of demand is now online.
Barry Sullman the GP was working from home that day for family reasons, had all 25 askmyGPs directed to him via VPN and messaged or called them from the home office, bringing some in to see the GP on site.
He tells me Monday – Tuesday are hard work, Weds was fine, he looks forward to Thursday – Friday. This has never happened before. He’s saving money, doesn’t need locums any more, takes the kids to school.
While Pulse moans on about GPs turning patients away, Barry is recruiting patients. He keeps telling me “It’s digital triage. There isn’t the strain of telephone triage. This is the future of the NHS.”
The thing I find difficult is that when I report what they are telling me in their own words, people say it’s too good to be true therefore it isn’t true.
That’s really sad, because while GPs are sitting there moaning and disbelieving, their most profitable patients are turning to GP at Hand to get a service far worse than what Barry and his team are providing from their own local surgery.
Spend 5 minutes in reception when it opens tomorrow morning and see what you could say goodbye to.