In common with health service colleagues, GPs are working harder than ever for their patients.
The pandemic has led to unprecedented demand for GPs services, not just in general practice, but in Covid Centres, an expanded flu vaccination programme and, more recently, the pilot Phone First services.
Social distancing and other infection prevention measures have had a serious impact on the capacity of many parts of the health service. GP practices are no different.
Despite the challenges, GPs have been committed to maintaining vital primary care services, rapidly adapting to meet the demands of delivering these during a pandemic, including video consultations and enhanced telephony capacity to make it easier for many patients to get in touch with their GP quickly.
In this way, despite all of the demands and capacity limits that Covid has created, GPs have maintained over 80% of general practice services. GPs remain committed to providing face to face care where this is needed, despite the challenges of social distancing and infection control. Around 30% of all consultations still take place face to face, compared to 50% at the same time last year.
There were 109,697 Covid related queries in General Practice across Northern Ireland from 6 April to 22 November 2020.
GPs have dealt with nearly 25,000 referrals to Covid Centres since they were established, in addition to managing the challenges of delivering normal general practice services.
Recently, there have been roughly 900 referrals a week to these Centres. GPs working there will give advice over the telephone, receive patients at the centres themselves and make home visits when required.
The Covid Centres have enabled GPs to provide patients with rapid access to support and medical advice during the pandemic, as well as providing an alternative to hospital attendance for many people - in the process significantly easing pressures on the hospital system.
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