Plea For Understanding As Primary Care Services Come Under Pressure

Local people across Forth Valley are being asked for their ongoing understanding, patience and support as GP and other primary care services come under increasing pressure due to an increase in Covid-19 related staff absences.

Cathie Cowan, Chief Executive of NHS Forth Valley, said: “GP practices have and continue to play a key role in the NHS response to the pandemic and I would like to thank all staff working in primary care and other community services across Forth Valley for their tremendous efforts over the last 18 months to support local patients and their families.

Cathie Cowan

Cathie Cowan

“The ongoing impact of the pandemic and the recent high levels of Covid-19 related staff absences not only impacts on the delivery of hospital-based care, but also on the many very important community health services, including those provided by staff in local GP practices, pharmacies, dental practices, and opticians. We are therefore working closely with our colleagues in primary care so that we can respond quickly to changing service and workforce pressures across Forth Valley.”

NHS Forth Valley’s Deputy Medical Director for Primary Care and local GP, Dr Scott Williams, said: “It is important to reassure local people that GP practices and other primary care services are still here for them, but some services or opening hours may be affected, on a temporary basis, over the next few weeks to help manage the high levels of staff absences we are experiencing.”

Dr Scott Williams

Dr Scott Williams

“We know that any changes to existing services can be frustrating, especially if they have to be made at short notice, and we really appreciate the public’s support and understanding at this very challenging time. Staff are doing everything to maintain as many services as possible and we ask people to treat them with respect and be kind as they continue to support local patients.”

All local primary care and community health services have contingency measures and plans in place to deal with service and staffing challenges and are continuing to follow current guidelines for cleaning protocols, PPE, physical distancing, and staff testing. While these measures aim to reduce the impact of Covid-19, due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant and high levels of Covid-19 in local communities, there is likely to be an impact on primary care services, particularly over the next few weeks. Local people are asked to plan ahead, where possible, and to be aware that it may take longer than normal to deal with more routine tests and appointments.

GP Practice reception staff can book appointments with other members of the Practice team including mental health nurses, physiotherapists, and advanced nurse practitioners when appropriate to patient needs. Local pharmacists can also provide healthcare advice and, under the Pharmacy First scheme, provide free treatment for many common health conditions without the need for a GP prescription.

The NHS Inform website provides a wide range of health information and advice including symptom checkers and self-care advice.

The NHS Inform helpline can also be contacted free on 0800 22 44 88, 7 days a week from 8.00am to 8.00pm.