Doctors reassure patients over GP surgery visits
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Face-to-face appointments are still available at Devon’s GP surgeries, but patients should contact practices by phone or online first.
Doctors say people should only go to hospital A&E departments in an emergency.
GP practices are currently taking steps to protect patients and staff from Covid-19 by reducing unnecessary visits.
For this reason, anyone contacting their doctors’ surgery is likely to be offered a telephone, online or video consultation in the first instance.
But they will be given a face-to-face appointment at the practice if necessary, and if so, they will be told what measures are in place to protect them and the staff.
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If the GP thinks they need to be referred to hospital for review or treatment, they will arrange this, and it is important for anyone given a GP or hospital appointment to attend.
However, consultants in Devon’s hospitals say waiting times at Accident and Emergency departments are on the up, and are reminding people only to use A&E if they have been referred there by another part of the NHS or have a genuine emergency.
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This could include the signs of stroke, severe chest pain, serious bleeding, worsening asthma or loss of consciousness.
Measures such as social distancing, designated areas for people with and without Covid-19 and more cleaning are in place at local hospitals to keep patients and staff safe, but in many cases they mean fewer people can be seen, adding to the pressure on local services.
The NHS in Devon is reminding local people and visitors of the alternatives to visiting A&E departments in non-emergency situations.
Patients with minor illnesses and injuries such as coughs, colds, grazes, small cuts or a sore throat can treat themselves with over-the-counter remedies.
They can also visit a pharmacist for advice on conditions such as hay fever, diarrhoea, earache, painful cough, sticky eye, teething and rashes.
Other alternatives to A&E are minor injury units and NHS walk-in centres.
Further advice is available from the www.nhs.uk website, the online 111.nhs.uk service for coronavirus, or by calling the 111 phone line.