For immediate release: Wednesday, 2 April 2014
Doctors should work together with patients and the out-of-hours service to ensure patient care is not affected this Easter.
UK-wide medical defence organisation MDDUS has pinpointed four key steps doctors can take to help minimise any disruption to patient care ahead of the Easter weekend.
The RCGP recently predicted that an estimated one in ten (34million) patients in England will fail to get a GP appointment this year when they need one due to a lack of funding, claiming there aren’t enough doctors, nurses and receptionists to handle the growing demand.
With this in mind and considering many practices are likely to be closed for four days over Easter, it is crucial practices have a system in place to ensure there is no disruption during the holiday period as a result of a lack of patient access to care.
MDDUS medical adviser Dr Barry Parker believes doctors can plan ahead to ensure patient care isn’t compromised during the holiday weekend. Here are four steps for doctors to consider this Easter:
1) Keep patients informed
“Some patients may panic when they realise their surgery is closed on a week day,” says Dr 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.
“If the practice has a Twitter feed or Facebook account then this too can be a useful way of keeping patients informed.
“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.”
2) Plan ahead for repeat prescriptions
“You can’t plan ahead for emergencies, but it may be worth reminding those patients on prescriptions to ensure any repeats are picked up prior to the long weekend.
“Prescription counter slips can also carry a special notice, so that patients can make sure they have adequate supplies of repeat medication.”
3) Work together with out-of-hours service
“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.
“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.”
4) Take care when handling results prior to holiday weekend
“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,” says Dr Parker.
“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.’’
“As always, keep clear, accurate and contemporaneous patient records. This is especially important prior to the long weekend and in the immediate aftermath when the practice may be especially busy.”
For further information contact Richard Hendry on 0845 270 2034 or 07976 272266, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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.