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Forres Health and Care Centre practice manager responds to complaints about level of services

By Garry McCartney

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Forres Health and Care Centre is experiencing delays in available appointments.
Forres Health and Care Centre is experiencing delays in available appointments.

THE practice manager at Forres Health and Care Centre has responded to complaints about the level of service it is currently offering.

Moray councillor Claire Feaver (Forres, Conservative) told the last meeting of Forres Community Council that she had heard from a number of local people that patients are facing a 25-minute wait on the phone to connect to reception, and a three-week wait for telephone appointments.

Culbin and Varis Medical Practice manager Fiona Harris accepts that ongoing delays in hospital appointments and procedures, and support services being currently paused, are putting added pressure on GP appointments.

She said: “We encourage those with serious symptoms not to delay seeking advice, and there will always be provision for patients who need seen urgently. We also encourage those with minor symptoms to use the expertise available from local pharmacies, or to utilise online services such as NHS inform or eConsult. We continue to deliver routine and urgent services, as well as ongoing chronic disease management, throughout the Covid pandemic, in addition to coordinating Covid vaccinations for the over-80s and for housebound patients.”

The health centre’s administration team has contacted NHS Grampian regarding concerns about getting through on the telephone, as the system is provided by them.

She said: “NHS Grampian have advised us that the average waiting time during March was four minutes 44 seconds.

“However, we encourage patients not to use peak times unless they require same-day advice as this is always the busiest time to get through, despite having extra staff answering calls.

“We have installed an option for immediate or urgent medical advice so there is no delay in these calls coming through, although callers should always dial 999 for life-threatening symptoms.”

The Forres practices offer a range of appointment types including: telephone; video; and consultation platform eConsult which allows patients to get help or advice from GPs online with a response by the end of the next working day.

However, face-to-face appointments are still available if clinical examination is required.

The Forres Treatment and Care Hub – formerly known as Unscheduled Care – also offers urgent assessment and treatment if this is required. This can be accessed using eConsult or by calling the health centre.

Ms Harris said: “As per NHS and government guidance, most appointments continue to be by telephone/video/online to reduce footfall and protect our most vulnerable patients as well as practice staff.

“Minor injuries are now dealt with by A&E units and patients should telephone 111 where their injury will be assessed. If necessary, an appointment will be made for them to attend a Minor Injury Unit for ailments including cuts, small burns, sprains or suspected broken bones.”

Safety first! Covid guideline warnings at Forres Health and Care Centre.
Safety first! Covid guideline warnings at Forres Health and Care Centre.

Ms Harris is pleased to see a reduction in local and nationwide Covid infection rates, as well as the “excellent” uptake of Covid vaccinations.

She added: “We would encourage everyone to continue with the FACTS Covid advice as restrictions are eased, even when vaccinated, to prevent any further lockdown of services.

“This reduction of infections and increase in vaccinations will hopefully allow us all to return to the things we enjoy once again and, combined with the planned remobilisation of hospital and support services, this will hopefully ease the pressure on GP appointments.”

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