We have highlighted a number of points below that we have seen raised and offer a response to each so that you are aware of what this means for us at Foundry and for you as a patient accessing our services.
In the same way we did prior to the pandemic, we will continue to triage calls to ensure they are directed to the right Clinician within the appropriate timeframe. Face to face appointments where appropriate continue to be available but are not finite, so our system ensures that, using the brief information you give us when you call, we can prioritise your appointment.
We offer a number of Face to Face pre-bookable appointments. This is carefully planned to ensure we endeavour to meet the demands within the access available to us on each day. We encourage patients with ongoing conditions that do not require immediate attention to wait for an appointment with the GP who knows them. Patients who contact us and require on the day treatment are therefore more likely to access the care they need. However again this is not a finite number and the demand does outweigh the capacity. You may be asked to attend on another day or access healthcare from your local Pharmacy or be redirected to 111.
We do have a cloud based telephony system which allows us to monitor activity and rota staff to maximise capacity for answering calls at our busiest times. We constantly review this service as we do know this can be a cause of frustration for patients.
Note: Patients can also assist us in reducing call wait times. For example; by preparing information ahead of calling or by trying our eConsult online service to request an appointment or submit administrative queries, find out more about how you can help us to help you here.
We have been actively expanding our workforce since the merge of the three surgeries. We have recruited new GPs and plan to recruit more, but there is a national shortage affecting this process. However we do already have a large pool of Clinicians at Foundry Healthcare already working alongside our GPs, including Advanced Nurse Practitioners, Paramedics, Musculoskeletal Practitioners, Clinical Pharmacists, Registrars and Practice Nurses. We also have Social Prescribers and Coordinators for Care Homes and Dementia patients. We will be adding two full time Coordinators, specialising in mental health to our team soon. We welcome additional funding to expand our workforce and eagerly await more information in this regard.
Retaining frontline staff has been difficult in the current circumstances. We do have new reception staff in role and more starting very soon but their job requires extensive training and it takes time for them to be confident in their new positions. We therefore welcome the governments support with reminding patients to be respectful and kind.
Foundry Healthcare Lewes is one of the first practices in the area to pilot a scheme commencing 22nd November 2021. This will enable us to refer patients to the local Pharmacies for an appointment for a consultation with a Clinical Pharmacist on a large list of minor ailments. More information on this to follow.
A sensible decision to free up valuable GP time
The safety of our patients and staff will remain at the heart of any changes we make in this regard. We have carefully looked at the guidance from The World Health Organisation which states that physical distancing of at least one metre remains a key infection prevention and control intervention to reduce the transmission of Covid-19. Patients will continue to be required to wear a face covering if attending a face-to-face consultation unless exempt. Patients with symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) or influenza should telephone the surgery before attending an appointment.
Due to the layout and size of our waiting areas we will need to continue with some limitation on the number of patients we can accommodate in the building so you may find the door is shut at certain times of day and that the intercom system will remain in use for announcing your arrival.
We hope that this information gives some insight into the situation we currently face and offers an update on some of our practice developments. Further updates will follow.
We thank all our patient for their continued support.
Foundry Healthcare Lewes (27.10.2021)
A short summary of the current situation in Foundry and what we are doing about it
By Dr. Phil Wallek, Clinical Director
Many of us will have seen recent reports in the national media describing the extremely challenging situation that primary care finds itself in, epitomised by frustrating waits to get an appointment. Here are just some of the reasons why this is.
This unique set of challenges has created huge and increasing pressure in the system. A ‘perfect storm’ made worse by reception colleagues trying to help angry and frustrated patients, often leading to double or triple average call times (and so further lengthening wait times!).
Furthermore, unsurprisingly, clinical staff have been spending more time with each patient as they manage increasingly complex issues made worse by the strains of the pandemic.
Staff levels of stress have risen exponentially as they are left trying to manage very difficult situations, sometimes without precedent, and suffering daily abuse and criticism from a significant minority of patients.
So, given all that, what’s the good news?
It’s not all doom and gloom! Despite all these pressures we ARE managing in Foundry, and we are winning the battle against Covid, and all the terrible problems it has thrown-up, one patient at a time. Foundry is made of strong stuff – colleagues who care deeply about our community, willing to do what it takes to get us through.
And let’s not forget you – the people who need our help day after day. So many of you have dealt with the Covid catastrophe with resilience and good humour – we are encouraged and inspired by your patience and willingness to bear the stress, and too often the sadness caused by the loss of loved ones. We also appreciate the countless thank-yous and understanding throughout the last 18 months. Thank YOU.
Furthermore Covid has encouraged new and innovative ways of working – for example online appointments and video calls have enabled access to healthcare services to continue even at times even when many staff have had to work from home. On top of which new expert roles have joined the Foundry team to offer an extended range of services – thank you pharmacists, paramedics, social prescribers, physiotherapists and care coordinators. You are wonderful, committed people who have risen to the challenge without fail.
As a community we can work together to support each other through Covid. Individuals can access a wide range of resources from healthcare, social care and the voluntary sector to support themselves and each other during these challenging times. Signposting information about how best to access our services and get support, alongside advice on how you can help, is available on our website.
The changes we have been making throughout the last 18 months have met the Covid challenge – and shown us new ways and means to offer a better, more comprehensive service for the future. We are determined to learn from these experiences and evolve our ways of working accordingly.
Please let me reassure you that although we realise things are difficult right now for us all, both patients and those offering healthcare, we believe we can and will win through and be stronger and more resilient as a result. It’s a journey – thank you for bearing with us.
Please know every single Foundry colleague cares deeply about your health and wellbeing and is committed to giving you the best possible care.
What it means for patients
A supplier to the NHS has advised us of a global shortage of some equipment used for taking blood tests.
Anyone who needs a test for urgent health problems, will still get one but where your clinician recommends that it’s safe to do so, then you may be asked to come back for a test at a later date, or your appointment may be rescheduled.
Given the nature of the shortage, we cannot give an exact date for when the test will be rescheduled, but please be assured that if your condition or symptoms require it, then you will get a test, and we will be re-booking your test when supplies become more easily available.
If your condition or symptoms change or get worse, please contact the NHS as you would normally.
We are constantly reviewing our processes to ensure we provide the best possible service to all our patients.
You will be aware that we are currently experiencing considerable staffing issues and this is affecting the level of the service we are able to deliver consistently across all our sites. We eagerly await a purpose built building to accommodate all our Lewes based activity but unfortunately that is still some years away.
We have therefore taken the decision to temporarily close our School Hill site on Fridays, which is the day of the week most affected by staff shortages and move the Doctors, Nurses and Receptionists to our other sites.
This decision allows us to continue to safely provide the same number of appointments but will ease some of the pressure on our teams. It does mean that some patients may be asked to attend their appointment at one of our other sites in Lewes; at River Lodge, Malling Street or St Andrew’s, Southover Road, and on the odd occasion at our Anchor Field site in Ringmer.
We do apologise for the inconvenience this may cause some patients and appreciate your understanding and patience during this prolonged period of exceptional pressure on general practice.
We will continue to keep you updated with how this works out for our patients and welcome your feedback in this regard.
Please note this does mean we are unable to accept samples or paperwork at our School Hill site on Fridays. Please take to either River Lodge or St Andrew’s.
This TEMPORARY site closure will ONLY affect our School Hill site, and ONLY on Fridays, with immediate effect from Friday 23rd July 2021.
Foundry Healthcare Lewes (20.07.21)
All GPs nationally received a General Practice Data for Research and Planning (GPDPR) update letter yesterday from Jo Churchill, Parliamentary under Secretary of State for Primary Care and Health Promotion.
The letter confirms further engagement will be sought and assurance that tougher safeguards will be in place ahead of GP data collection, which will no longer take place on 1st September.
We welcome the planned production of a national campaign to inform patients clearly as what GPDPR is, how and why patient data will be used for Planning and Research, and how patients can make an informed decision as to how their data is used.
The letter has been published on the NHS Digital website here.
Foundry Healthcare Lewes (20.07.21)
With the rising number of cases, the increase in staff shortages due to the impact of the virus, and for the safety of our vulnerable patients and staff, we have made the decision to continue with the measures we have in place that are designed to control the spread of Covid-19 in our practices.
We ask that patients continue to:
We have had a number of patients contact us regarding the recent media coverage on the National Data Opt-Out.
We apologise that at present we cannot offer a full statement, as we are currently awaiting an update from our local NHS Healthcare Commissioning Group. We will offer a further update to patients following a meeting planned with them this week.
In the meantime, we would suggest patients seek advice and information directly from NHS Digital and view our existing Privacy Notice for information relating to our use of patient data, as well as details on the types of ‘opt-outs’ available.
If you have read our Privacy Notice and wish to register a Type 1 Opt-Out*, our main phone line now allows you to leave a message with your request. Please call 01273 480888 and choose Option 5, we ask that you leave your name, date of birth, NHS Number (if known) and a contact telephone number.
We thank you for your patience regarding this matter.
Foundry Healthcare Lewes (08.06.2021)
Further to our earlier statement:
Health Minister Jo Churchill MP has just advised the House of Commons, in response to an oral question from Robert Largan MP, Conservative MP for High Peak, that the GPDPR programme implementation date has been moved back to 1 September 2021 to allow “more time to talk to patients, Drs, and other stakeholders”
Foundry Healthcare Lewes (08.06.2021 @ 14:28)
We do listen and we do value your feedback. We hear your frustrations and understand the difficulties you have found when accessing our services. However please be assured we continue to endeavour to provide a patient-centred service in spite of resource limitations and a national pandemic. We do ask however, that your feedback is constructive and kind. It has been a tough year for everyone.
In response to some of the specific concerns we have heard raised:
“The service we provide has been affected by the merge of the surgeries, it has been a cost-cutting exercise that has resulted in a worse service than before:”
The merge of the three surgeries has meant we have improved access to NHS funding, which is being made available under the new Primary Care Network contract. So rather than being a cost cutting exercise and a reduction in staffing levels, we have in fact invested to increase our workforce in the last year to include; two additional administrative staff, two additional GPs, two Clinical Pharmacists and a Pharmacy Technician, a Reception Manager, a Communications Officer, Two First Contact Practitioners who specialise in Musculoskeletal conditions, and two additional Care-Coordinators. We are also planning to employ a Mental Health Practitioner in the very near future.
However, irrespective of the merge, it is important to note that we too have been affected by the pandemic. Fortunately the safety measures we have put in place in the workplace meant that only a very few members of staff contracted the virus. However, many at some point during the last year had to work from home or isolate or shield because of the virus. This has meant an unprecedented year of staff absences, which has affected the service we have been able to provide. Often we have worked long hours, weekends and bank holidays to cover for our colleagues and minimise the impact on the service we provide.
Often throughout this last year and specifically at present, community services such as District Nurses, Health Visitors and Mental Health Practitioners have been unable to provide a full service, so our team have taken on additional work to cover their shortfall to reduce the impact to our patients as well as providing support when hospital appointments have been cancelled or operations delayed. This has been possible because of the merge of the surgeries and our ability to pool our clinical resources more efficiently but has inevitably impacted on the service we provide. We are only human and there are only so many waking hours in the days.
“Long wait times on the phone”
The pressure and increase in demand on GP services is not unique to us, it is a national issue being reported by many practices. Evidence from NHS digital shows that GP practices are receiving a 20% increase in calls compared to this time last year. Patients have held back during the pandemic and are coming forward with expectations on the service to resume to ‘normal’. Secondary care services are still working their way through their back log, which means patients waiting for hospital appointments are coming back to us. Our staff (who lost bank holidays last year and carried holiday over to assist with the Pandemic) are now, quite rightly, taking much needed leave. Since December 2020 we have been running a completely new, additional service delivering the covid-19 vaccine to our practice population. Staff are working six and sometimes seven days a week.
We are currently in the process of recruiting admin staff to replace some who have recently left and we do sincerely apologise for the impact on our phone lines. We have recently introduced an e-consult service which we encourage patients to use to request advice and treatment from the practice as an efficient alternative to waiting for the phone the be answered. More information can be found here.
We will also re-introduce access to appointments via our online booking service very soon. See our Online Services for further information.
These measures will help to reduce the number of calls being made to the surgery and the length of time you may have to wait for your call to be answered. In the meantime, we are monitoring the calls and endeavouring to ensure maximum staff are made available at peak call times. If your call is not urgent we request you try and avoid calling during the first few hours of the day.
The British Medical Association have released this press release regarding the national issue.
“There is only one telephone number”
This was a cost saving decision because we are one business and it did not make sense to pay for three telephone contracts. However, we have purchased a new telephone system with additional phone lines and the number of people answering the phone has not decreased (except on days when staff sickness was unexpected). So although hearing you are 40th in the queue is alarming, there are at least 8 people answering the phone and up to 16 staff at our peak times. They really are doing their best to get to your call as quickly as possible and we monitor calls regularly to try and work out what is causing the delays.
The new phone system provides us with reporting and the facility to listen to calls for the purpose of reviewing the service we provide. Work is ongoing analysing the reports to inform our recruitment process.
“Why can’t I have a face to face consultation with my Doctor?”
Throughout the pandemic we have continued to offer a service from 8am to 8pm seven days a week. This had to be delivered differently, in accordance with the ever-changing guidelines, to ensure we kept our staff and patients safe. The low infection rates in the Lewes are testimony to how well we are doing this.
Phone or video consultations have made up the majority for patient contact, with face to face contact were clinically indicated. We understand your reservations regarding the effectiveness of a phone or video consultation, it has been a learning curve and new experience for us too. However, it has proven to be extremely affective and we will continue to use these methods for patient contact where appropriate.
See this BMA article from Sept 20′ – New ways of working but GP practices still open, protecting and caring
“The surgery has been privatised”
Please be assured we are very much an entirely NHS organisation and nothing has changed in this regard.
“My old surgery was much better”
We are still here. The merge of the surgeries has meant we have been able to improve continuity of care for those patients with an ongoing condition by ensuring their regular GP or a member of their small team contacts them. For those patients who need access to our services more urgently we have increased “on the day” access by moving GPs to the Urgent treatment centre where they work alongside the Advance Nurse Practitioners who have the expertise to treat minor ailments and injuries.
“The staff don’t care”
This could not possibly be further from the truth. We are proud of the caring attitude our staff demonstrate. We are all human and on occasion our staff are on the receiving end of some quite inappropriately hostile behaviour. It is disheartening to read that some have had the experiences they have, especially when we have all been working so hard to provide services to our patients, in what has been some of the most exceptional circumstances.
We welcome your feedback but request that this is delivered in a constructive and kind way.
Foundry Healthcare Lewes (11.05.2021)
All information regarding our Covid-19 Vaccination programme can be found by following the link below to our dedicated Covid-19 vaccine website page.
We are asking that patients refrain from calling and emailing the surgery asking about the vaccine. Our staff are incredibly busy, with both the vaccine rollout and dealing with our usual daily enquires/bookings. Our resources and phone lines need to be kept clear for those most at need.
Do be reassured that you will be contacted when it is your turn for the vaccine.
The website is being updated regularly, so please continue to check here.
We would like to apologise to those patients who have experienced a longer than usual wait for a response when calling the surgery recently.
There have been a number of issues that have impacted on our resources and affected this service and we are addressing all of these as efficiently as possible, to improve the situation . This includes offering e-consultations, re-introducing appointment booking online and recruitment of staff.
We do value your feedback and appreciate your patience.
Foundry Healthcare Lewes (27.04.21)
We are now offering online consultations through eConsult.
Whether it’s an appointment you need, general advice, self-help or an administrative query, we would like you to complete a quick online consultation so we have all the information we need to address your needs and arrange the appropriate care and advice.
See here for further information and instruction on how to start your eConsult today.
Patients aged 45+ can now book their vaccine via the National Booking Service. This is for vaccination at one of the larger vaccination sites or pharmacy.
GP led vaccination sites, like Foundry, are waiting on further instruction from the JCVI before they can begin offering these patients vaccination at their sites.
Please be assured, we will contact you should we be instructed to begin inviting patients in this group.
The MHRA is carrying out a detailed review of reports of a very rare blood clotting problem affecting a small number of people who have had the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
The problem can also happen in people who have not been vaccinated and it’s not yet clear why it affects some people.
The COVID-19 vaccine can help stop you getting seriously ill or dying from coronavirus.
If you have already had your vaccination, there is no change to your planned second dose unless you had had significant side effects with the first dose.
Call 111 immediately if you get any of these symptoms starting from around 4 days to 4 weeks after being vaccinated:
If you are due your second dose vaccination, you will be contacted by our vaccination team as you approach the 12 mark since your first vaccination to arrange your appointment.
Please do not contact us unless you are concerned that you have gone passed the 12 week mark from your first vaccination.
For people under 30 without other health conditions, it’s currently advised that it’s preferable to have another COVID-19 vaccine instead of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
If you choose to have another COVID-19 vaccine you may have to wait to be protected, but an alternative to AZ will be made available to you by the NHS.
You may wish to go ahead with the AZ vaccination after you have considered all the risks and benefits for you.
The NHS will contact you when it is your turn to receive your vaccination.
We have received notice that the NHS has added 1.7million people nationally to the list of those considered Clinically Extremely Vulnerable to complications from Covid-19 (also known as the Shielded Patient List). If you have been added this was through central NHS identification rather than by us as a GP surgery.
Those newly added will receive a letter from the government notifying them. We will be able to offer newly-added patients vaccination against Covid-19 as a priority. Please do not contact us about this. We will identify you directly from government lists and invite you in as soon as we have supply of vaccine and appointment availability.
Foundry Healthcare Lewes (18.02.2021)
Following an update from NHS England, GP lead vaccination sites are now to start inviting Clinically Vulnerable patients in Groups 5 and 6, patients with conditions aged 16-69 years.
Those patients in Group 5, 65-69 years, who have no underlying health conditions are encouraged to accept invitation to attend one of the mass vaccination sites. These patients can book their vaccine direct though the national booking service or by calling 119.
This decision has been made nationally as a GP lead vaccine site is better suited to identify those patients who are clinically vulnerable.
The conditions which warrant inclusion in Group 6 are those with:
Further information can be found here.
Group 6 also includes those who are in receipt of a carer’s allowance, or those who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person, someone who has a severe mental illness or whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill.
The surgery has made a list of all those patients we believe to be in group 6. If you are in this group you should have received a SMS starting you have been identified for this group and will soon be invited to book your appointment. You do not need to take any further action until you receive your vaccination invitation which will likely come by SMS.
*Severe asthma is defined, for the purposes of vaccination, as anybody who has had more than 2 exacerbations of asthma requiring treatment with swallowed steroids in the past year or any patient who has ever been admitted to hospital as a result of asthma. Please note this means those who were kept in on a ward rather than being treated in A+E before discharge. If this does apply please contact us using the email address below and be as specific as you can regarding the dates of your hospitalisation.
If you believe, having read the criteria, that you have one of the conditions listed and should be in group 6 but have not received a SMS please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Include your name, date of birth, and your clinical details. We will respond as soon as possible but this may take some time as we have a huge number of enquiries. Please try to avoid phoning the surgery with vaccination enquiries.
Foundry Healthcare Lewes (15.02.2021)
Some patients registered at this GP practice will soon be invited to take part in a national survey about their experiences of local NHS services.
It covers issues that concern patients, such as access to care and satisfaction with treatment.
If you receive a questionnaire, please help NHS England by filling it in as soon as possible.
It is really important that we hear your views, even if you have received a questionnaire like this before. Your response will help us to improve GP practices and other local NHS services so they better meet your needs.
Follow the link below for further information, including our results for last year (2020).