STAFF in Wellington Medical Centre were facing an almost ‘overwhelming’ demand from patients for help, the surgery’s patient participation group (PPG) has been told. 

The surgery was receiving 300 to 400 calls a day as demand outstripped capacity and saw GPs step in to prevent it becoming overwhelming. 

Dr Emily Eve explained to the PPG a new ‘Total Triage’ system which was introduced last month where patients logged into the NHS App for appointments, prescriptions, and medical history.

She said administration, nurse appointments, and blood tests still went through the patient service advisors who were able to make direct appointments.

But the same triage form was completed, regardless of the method chosen by patients to contact the surgery.

Dr Eve said on the first day of the new system the surgery saw 293 medical requests, 68 of which were online.

There was always a peak on Mondays, with 1,200 patient contacts on one Monday in January.

Two doctors were on ‘Total Triage’, one to triage and the other to fulfil about 50 telephone appointments per day, as they undertook 12 to 13 hours of triaging a day.

Dr Eve said there were currently 54 GP sessions per week, each session being half a day.

There were concerns that patients could slip through the net, but staff were trained on ‘red flags’ and the things to watch out for, and were encouraged to speak to a GP if they were concerned.

Due to retirements over the past 18 months the surgery had lost 17 GP sessions, and locums were being used to fill the gaps.

There was now stability in the patient services team and it was felt the triage system had contributed to this.

One PPG member praised the ‘great service’ and follow-up which a family member had received after a recent medical centre contact.

PPG chairman Veronica Tatnall said the latest NHS App event held in Wellington Rugby Club in January had been busy with 160 people signing up, and another session was to be organised.

Members of the PPG had helped out on the day and they were thanked by practice manager Lydia Daniel-Baker for their support.

The first equality and diversity session was held in December by the Somerset Integrated Care Board (ICB) and the medical centre had been praised for its sensitivity in screening transgender people.

An adult mental health worker was starting at the practice this week, initially for one day a week and eventually for two days, and would be working more as a co-ordinator although they could assess and refer.

Following a recent outbreak of measles there was a national campaign inviting those eligible for vaccination, including front line staff in the medical centre.

The practice had a 95 per cent compliance rate with childhood vaccinations.

It was highlighted that cancer patients were now benefitting from an award-winning aftercare service after radiotherapy treatment in Musgrove Park Hospital.

The Macmillian Radiotherapy Late Effects service provided specialist advice and support for people who were experiencing ongoing effects from radiotherapy.

The PPG heard the Boots pharmacy at the practice was definitely closing on February 17 and everybody was thanked by the manager and Mrs Tatnall for their support.

Mrs Tatnall said no response had been received to two PPG letters to the ICB registering concerns at the pharmacy closure, especially on behalf of the disabled.

A reminder was given that the Welly Hopper patient transport scheme for registered patients of the medical centre and the nearby Luson Surgery was available for those facing difficulty travelling to and from appointments.

Patients paid a standard fee of £2.50 per journey plus 50p per mile, and received a 50 per cent discount if a bus pass was used.

The Hopper was still in need of volunteer drivers, who received 45p per mile. Anybody interested in volunteering should call 01823 669022.

Bookings could be made on Monday and Friday by calling 07704 682139 between 9 am and 1 pm, or on a Wednesday using 07704 682143.

The next PPG meeting would be held in the medical centre at 2.15 pm on March 18, when any new members could attend by reporting to reception.

The Welly Hopper annual meeting will be held in the rugby clubhouse at 2 pm on March 22.