Practice Newsletters

Your Health: Practice newsletter

Spring 2024

Dr Will Owen, GP & Managing Partner
An update from the Practice by Dr Will Owen

Welcome to our first practice newsletter for several years. Since our wonderful Patient Participation Group (PPG) last sent out a newsletter we’ve experienced the global Covid-19 pandemic and seen huge changes in the expectations, resources and requirements that affect the ways we work in general practice. We’ve also seen some big changes in the Practice team over the last few years – with several longstanding GPs, nurses and receptionists leaving, and many more joining our team. We have a really brilliant and caring team, and we are totally committed to providing the best possible care when you need us.

One of our key aims is to stay connected to the needs of our community, and our PPG are central to that effort. Together we have put on annual ‘flu vaccination campaigns, health education events on subjects from heart disease to adolescent mental health, patient surveys, and now this newsletter. We want to build on these efforts to support our patients to look after their health, as well as being there when illness hits. If you would like to be involved in supporting your GP practice please consider joining our PPG. You can find out more by emailing [email protected]

We know that satisfaction with general practice is falling across the country, as many people find it harder to get an appointment when they want one. As patients ourselves with other practices we understand those frustrations. The number of daily appointments we receive has increased significantly over the last 3-4 years. During that time we’ve also seen a fall in the funding available to support us in meeting that need. We are trying hard to respond to these challenges and provide the best possible care. For example, we have introduced a new ‘clinical triage’ system for those with urgent problems, to ensure everyone can get the most appropriate care as soon as possible. We are using digital tools, such as text messaging and email, to help us communicate more proactively. We are also working collaboratively with neighbouring practices, and as a result we now have several new healthcare professionals working as part of our team, including clinical pharmacists, a physiotherapist, paramedics, physician associates, and health and wellbeing coaches. We will be introducing you to some of these fantastic colleagues in future editions of this newsletter.

We would like to thank all of you who have taken the time to feedback on your experiences of the Practice already. We continue to welcome your feedback, whether you’ve had great care or have a suggestion for how we could improve, and thank you for your patience and support as we work hard to provide the best service we possibly can.
Dr Chloe Duke, GP

Staff updates at the practice

Over the last few months we have been delighted to welcome a number of new colleagues to our team. Dr Chloe Duke has joined us a GP working in Penn Surgery, with particular interests in children’s and women’s health.

Frohar Fareem, PA

Frohar Fareem has joined us as a ‘Physicians Associate’, having excelled in her recent exams, and she is trained to providing thorough clinical assessments whilst working closely with supervising GPs. She currently offers urgent appointments each day for minor illnesses and is visiting and supporting some of our care homes locally.

Clare Wheeler, Practice Manager

We are also delighted to have welcomed Clare Wheeler as our new Practice Manager. Clare lives locally and brings a wealth of experience from the commercial world to help us provide the best possible service to our patients and maintain our brilliant team of clinical and non-clinical colleagues.

Finally, we are sad to share that our wonderful paramedic, Martin, is leaving to take on a new role supporting a number of local practices. Many of you will have met Martin over the years and we hope you’ll join us in wishing him all the best for the future.

You said, we did: introducing clinical ‘triage’ for urgent concerns

Last autumn the Practice ran a patient survey. There were lots of really positive comments, which we gratefully shared with the team, and many great suggestions for improvements we could make. The main frustrations you experienced were the waiting times on the phonelines to speak to our reception team and the lack of both urgent and routine appointments.

We have traditionally relied on our reception team to allocate appointments on a first-come first-served basis, like most GP practices across the country. This naturally led to a ‘morning rush’ on the phone lines from 8.30am each day, in which we could have more than 100 calls across both sites in the first half an hour. In turn this led to long waits on the phone and understandable frustration for patients.

We believe that appointments should be booked based on clinical need, rather than depending on when you are able to call in, and so we have introduced a new system for managing urgent requests. The phones are still answered by our experienced reception team, but they are now supported by a ‘Duty GP’ who helps decide what kind of appointment is most appropriate (with whom, and how urgent). This system relies on our reception team gathering some important information to help the GP then decide how best to help with your concern, so please do help us by sharing the relevant details if they ask.

To maximise the number of GP appointments we have available you may now get a call from the Duty GP to explore your symptoms further or be asked to send in more information via text message. You may also be booked an appointment with a different member of our team, such as our Clinical Pharmacist or Physician Associate, or you may be encouraged to go to the community pharmacy or minor injuries unit if those places will be able to meet your needs.

These changes are still ‘bedding in’ but seem to be working well so far. The number of people being told to call back another day has fallen from around 50 per week a year ago to fewer than 5 per week this month. More importantly, positive feedback from our patients has increased: with 97% of patients last month rating their experience as ‘very good’ or ‘good’. We know there are still improvements to make, indeed we have imminent plans to introduce an automated call back feature to save you waiting on the phone at busy times, but we hope that you agree this is a big step in the right direction.

Introducing the ‘Pharmacy First’ service

From the beginning of this year the government have changed the rules to enable community pharmacies to provide treatments for 7 common conditions which previously would have needed a GP appointment.

Pharmacists are experts in managing medications and have received training in recognising and treating minor illnesses. Anyone can now walk into a participating community pharmacy, without making an appointment or needing a referral from the GP surgery, and ask for a consultation on any of these 7 common conditions :

Under the new service, pharmacists can provide advice and, if clinically appropriate, will offer an NHS medicine to treat it (NHS prescription charges apply, unless you are exempt). If the pharmacy team are concerned, or feel you need a more thorough assessment, they will direct you back to the GP practice.

By thinking ‘Pharmacy First’ people should find it easier and quicker to get the help they need for these minor illnesses. This service is offered locally by both Pyramid & Lansdales pharmacies.

A focus on our new staff: Ashik Karania, Clinical Pharmacist

Ashik Karania is a prescribing Clinical Pharmacist and has been an essential part of the practice team for just over two years, working closely with the GPs. Clinical Pharmacists are experts in starting, monitoring and adjusting medications. In his role Ashik speaks to patients to help review their medications and doses. He also helps if a patient has concerns about medication side effects or stock issues in the local community pharmacies. Ashik has a particular expertise in supporting patients with diabetes to optimize their medications but his great experience in general practice allows him to support patients with a whole range of urgent and long-term problems. Appointments with Ashik are over the phone, and can be arranged by calling our reception team.

A seasonal health update: Hayfever

Hayfever affects about a quarter of us in the UK, and is caused by an allergic reaction to seasonal tree and grass pollens. The allergic reaction predominantly affects the lining of the nose (‘allergic rhinitis’), but also commonly affects the eyes and throat, with symptoms including sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, and tiredness. The peak seasons are March to mid-May caused by tree pollen, and mid-May to July caused by grass/flower pollen. Similar symptoms can be associated with allergy to house dust mites or animal dander, but these tend to be less seasonal or worse in the winter months when we spend more time indoors.

The most common treatments are oral antihistamines, which you get ‘over the counter’ from the community pharmacy. We now know that nasal steroid sprays are probably the most effective treatment, particularly if started 2-3 weeks before your hay fever symptoms typically begin, as they are most targeted to the cause of these symptoms and reduce inflammation in the lining of the nose. Nasal steroid sprays can also be bought from the community pharmacy, and the use of nasal steroids and oral antihistamines together is effective for more than ¾ of hay fever sufferers. If symptoms persist despite this you should contact the practice to speak with a clinical pharmacist (like Ashik) or a GP to consider additional/alternative treatment options. If you experience (rare) more severe reactions such as facial swelling or any difficulty swallowing or breathing you should seek urgent medical attention via 111 or 999.

Dying Matters: thinking about death & planning for the end of life

Join our next community health evening at Beaconsfield Medical Centre, Tuesday 11th June 2024 from 7pm

Death and dying can be difficult subjects to think about and to discuss with family and friends. However, there appears to be a growing willingness to be open about the subject and to have conversations with those close to us. Some of you might be thinking about how you go about starting those conversations. Maybe now is the time for you to gather information about what death and dying can involve; what planning steps you could take, especially if there are particular wishes you want to be followed when the time comes, and how to start those conversations.

To help you with information gathering, The Simpson Centre & Penn Surgery have organised an evening with a range of speakers offering different perspectives on death and bereavement, from addressing common concerns to considering the practical aspects for relatives and loved ones. The evening will include the opportunity to ask questions captured electronically or ‘live’ from the audience. 

We would love you to join us but space is limited, so if you are planning to come along please book a place using the button below (or follow the link: https://forms.office.com/e/Zq1kzgc0zG).

Looking forward: increasing our use of the ‘NHS App’

Healthcare is never far from the news, often not for very positive reasons recently, but last month there was an interesting article in The Sunday Times which promoted a new and effective way to access your healthcare information. The NHS App is continuously improving to help patients facilitate their own healthcare, such as requesting repeat prescriptions and also allowing collection of prescriptions from any pharmacy in England, secure messaging from the GP surgery, seeing referrals to the hospital and now it is also providing access to your health record and recent consultation notes.

The team at the Simpson Centre & Penn Surgery are keen to encourage all our patients to feel confident about using the NHS App, and they will be working with the PPG to share more information for patients about using the app including support sessions for those needing an extra hand with the technology.

We also have free ‘digital cafes’ run by NHS colleagues to help anyone having difficulty to get up and running with the NHS App. These drop-in sessions run monthly at Beaconsfield library on the 1st Tuesday of each month, 11am-12pm.

In the meantime please do take a moment to make sure that the practice have an up-to-date email address for you, by emailing [email protected] and giving your name and date of birth. Many thanks!

Published by The Simpson Centre & Penn Surgery PPG, May 2024