Throughout the Covid-19 crisis, GPs have been the first port of call for care homes when residents fall ill and they continue to respond to the challenge.
GP surgeries have provided dedicated phone lines so staff at care homes can make urgent contact with them when required during the day.
They have continued to provide telephone advice and have been working with Trusts to innovate, using modern technology to conduct virtual video consultations with their patients in the homes.
When GP practices are closed, Community Covid Centres play an important role supporting care homes and liaising with HSC Trusts and GP Federations.
Dr Frances O’Hagan, a GP from Armagh said: “This pandemic has been very challenging for all those affected by it, and no more so than our patients who are resident in care homes. As a GP working in Armagh and also in the Dungannon Covid Centre I feel it is very important that GPs can support these patients using all the resources at their disposal.
“GPs are best placed to coordinate the care of these patients as we know our patients and their families. As we work with our care homes on a daily basis we can discuss care with the staff who are doing a fantastic job in this very difficult time.
“We also have the highly skilled dedicated team in our Acute Care At Home Team in the Southern Area who have supported many residents in our care homes, with enhanced care in their homes and have kept many out of hospital. I am pleased to say many have been handed back to us having recovered from COVID.”
Whilst patient visits to homes by GPs have not stopped during the current pandemic, GPs continue to link with local Covid-19 Centres to make sure the patients get the attention they require if they show symptoms of Covid-19.
Through the 11 Covid-19 Centres across Northern Ireland, GP’s over the past two months, have been able to play an important role in helping to coordinate and support care in those homes which have an outbreak of Coronavirus.
GPs in the centres are available to support and guide nursing staff, to manage the care of multiple patients in care homes, to prescribe medication and provide some extra reassurance. The resident’s GP remains fully involved in making important decisions about their patients during this crisis
Dr Bernard McCoy, a GP from Stewartstown who works in Northern Community Covid Centres added: “These are challenging times, particularly for a very vulnerable section of our society, those being cared for in our residential and care facilities.
“It is particularly difficult for families, friends and carers. I am really impressed by the dedicated care provided by the amazing staff working to support our patients.
“I have been able to support care services by helping to establish Community Covid Centres which complement the direct care provided by GP’s and their practice teams. Our Community Covid Centres work as part of a dedicated team involving GP’s, local practices, GP Federations, local hospital Trusts and Dalriada Urgent Care.”
Work is also currently on-going alongside Volunteer Now to establish a process for speeding up the collection and distribution of medication between Care Homes, GPs and pharmacies.