Communicate with your patients this easter

PRESS RELEASE

For immediate release: Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Effective communication is the key for GPs when it comes to ensuring patient care isn’t compromised during the upcoming Easter holiday weekend.

Many practices will be closed for Good Friday and Easter Monday, meaning patients will need to rely on their local out-of-hours service for four days from April 6 until April 9.

UK-wide medical defence organisation MDDUS believes communicating with patients can help ensure a smooth holiday weekend for both doctors and patients.

“Some patients may panic when they realise their surgery is closed on a week day,” says MDDUS medical adviser Dr Barry Parker. “By communicating with patients, doctors can ease their concerns while also minimising disruption and relieving demand on the out-of-hours providers.

“There are some simple steps GPs can take to make patients aware of the practice opening hours during the Easter break, such as during face-to-face appointments, via the notice board in the waiting room, in the practice newsletter and on the practice’s website.

“Prescription counterslips can also carry a special notice, so that patients can make sure they have adequate supplies of repeat medication.”

Many patients will not know what out-of-hours care is provided when the surgery is closed, so this information should also be included in any communication, together with access details.

Patients in England and Wales who need urgent medical advice when the surgery is closed should contact NHS Direct, while NHS 24 deals with calls to the out-of-hours service in Scotland.

“Effective communication between GPs and the out-of-hours providers is also important to ensure safety during all holiday periods,” adds Dr Parker.

“Patients receiving palliative care or those with complex physical and mental conditions may be particularly difficult to manage in an out-of-hours setting where little or no records are available.

“Therefore, the use of ‘patient of note’ communications can be of assistance. Vital details can be forwarded to the out-of-hours service in advance, providing, of course, that patients consent to this.

“Practices should also be vigilant in relation to any abnormal result handling on the day before the holiday begins, given the four-day gap before normal service resumes.

“This is an area where problems and complaints may arise, particularly in relation to warfarin results or electrolyte abnormalities that may need dealt with more urgently.’’

While patients can be reassured that they can rely on the out-of-hours service, it is inevitable that some patients may have greater levels of stress or anxiety because they can’t contact their regular doctor at their surgery.

“Good communication and preparation can help to ensure that everything runs smoothly over the holiday period,” says Dr Parker.

Ends

For further information contact Richard Hendry on 0845 270 2034 or 07976 272266, or email rihendry@mddus.com.

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Note to editors

MDDUS (The Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland) is a medical and dental defence organisation providing access to professional indemnity and expert medico- and dento-legal advice for doctors, dentists and other healthcare professionals throughout the UK. For further information on MDDUS go to www.mddus.com.