Kevin Goucher, chairman of NHS Warrington Clinical Commissioning Group’s health forum, shares his thoughts on how we can help our health system this winter.

STAFF in general practices across the country are working extremely hard to keep us safe as they face huge demand on their services.

It’s already looking like their busiest ever period and we’re not even in winter yet.

As patients, we can help them by being patient and remembering to be kind and understanding.

Things are working a bit differently in Culcheth Medical Centre, my local practice, as they are across most practices in England.

Most people that enter surgeries are poorly, which means precautions like still adhering to social distancing and wearing masks and protective clothing to keep people safe are still in place.

Surgeries in Warrington are open, but most appointments are being clinically triaged, which means they’re being assessed by one of the GPs or a senior practice nurse to decide which member of the clinical team you should be seeing.

They also assess whether you need to see them face-to-face, or if it can be done over the phone, video or in your local pharmacy.

The level of demand means it can, at times, take longer for you to get through to your GP practice on the phone. If it’s not urgent, some practices have the facility to complete an online form which will be sent to your practice and the appropriate person will get back to you.

GPs are trained to assess and diagnose most common conditions over the phone or via a video consultation, which can save you an unnecessary trip to the practice. If you need a prescription this can be sent electronically to your local pharmacy.

If your GP thinks they or a member of their clinical team need to see you, a face-to-face appointment will be arranged and you’ll be seen by either your GP or another appropriate clinician.

All of the practices in Warrington have teams of specialists who work alongside the doctors such as advanced nurse practitioners, practice nurses, mental health workers, clinical pharmacists and physiotherapists. They can all diagnose and treat health conditions.

Please remember that staff behind the NHS uniform are people, too. Please be kind and understanding – they’re doing everything they can to make sure patients are kept safe and receive the right care when it’s needed.