Drum-roll please! Last week this rather handsome certificate arrived, as an acknowledgement of all the positive changes we've made over the past year to reduce OSMP's carbon footprint. It's a real looker right? I might have it made into a sticker I can wear on my scrubs. Don't judge me.
Actually it's been a real tonic amidst the hullabaloo of the past 4 months, and a huge boost for our staff who have been brilliant and implemented all the changes suggested by moi, every time I swan into Reception or lie in wait until the end of a practice meeting, ready to pounce with yet another idea. This award (did I mention - bronze!) has come at a particularly good time, as we're spending a lot of time navigating the annoyingly slow speed of NHS cogs still beset by COVID. Patients are telling us of not only their understandable frustrations at the delays and cancellations with hospital appointments, but also at the changes with how we're running clinics here at the surgery; the massive reduction in face to face contact, patients having to source a mask or face covering, and a general feeling of "why can't things go back to normal?"
Honestly we share many of these concerns and we're doing everything we can to keep things going. Yes it's frustrating to not be in the same same room as our patient, but remember we absolutely are seeing urgent cases that require face to face examination. There is no 'blanket ban' on in-person consultations, just that you'll speak to a GP first on the phone and they will decide if you need to be seen. And please remember, the idea behind all of this is to reduce the potential for COVID transmission between you and your GP, and vice versa. So if we keep conversation to a minimum, it's not because we're being deliberately frosty, but because we are striving to reduce the contact time between us. And it's worth pointing out that for non-urgent cases, there are of course many benefits to phone consultations; they require no transport (planet point tick!), no (or very little) time off work, no need for childcare, and you can be sat there in your pyjamas, even in the bath (though I'm not recommending this) and your friendly GP will never know! Until, that is, you drop your phone and we use our powers of deduction to interpret a splash, muffled expletive, and the line going dead in the only way it can be interpreted.
And remember there are lots of things we can see over video, and we use specific secure software (not just Facetime, to the surprise of many people! Though, um, other video platforms are available), which is GDPR-approved and follows NHS best practice guidelines on health and social care cloud security. Sounds cute and fluffy right? Au contraire mes amis, it's really important. And if you don't know what GDPR is you must've slept through 2019. Lots of skin rashes can be swiftly dealt with over video. Or sometimes, we might ask you to send in photos after discussing the problem over the phone. We'll often get back to patients the same day with advice, reassurance, and treatment if required. But if you're going to email in photos, please remember the following tips from the top (I taught my pet turtle to take photos using these rules, but she just kept taking shellfies (sorry)):
Firstly they need to be in focus. Sounds obvious, and you don't need to be a David Bailey to achieve this. Get someone with a steady hand to help? Secondly, we only need one close-up and one from a distance (so we can easily identify the body part. I mean we're good at anatomy jigsaw but sometimes even for a seasoned pro, one bit of skin can look frustratingly like another). Just 2 or a few will be enough. We don't need 6 of the same mole, in varying degrees of focussedness please. Next, size matters, so it's quite useful if you can include a ruler or tape-measure in the shot. Please add the photos as attachments rather than pasting them into the body of the email. This is because our practice email account is run by Grace, who gets a bit of a fright if she's scanning through the inbox and a giant deformed toenail pops up full-screen to accompany her as she chomps on her bag of Quavers (other fake-cheese flavoured snacks are available blah blah blah). And if you're photographing your face, please close your eyes as this goes some way to maintaining your confidentiality. We're a big fan of that, in fact all the photos get coded with numbers rather than your name, like a slick clandestine spy operation. Finally, please don't send us any photos involving intimate areas, (particularly of your children as this is against the law, even if for medical reasons).
Now I don't wish to lose focus here (sorry), but thanks for your support with helping us go green, for keeping smiling during COVID, and continuing to greet our staff with the gratitude that has made our jobs so much easier. We love to see smiling faces. And jokes. Jokes are great too. Especially since all this talk of photos has made me a little snappy...