News

Open Letter to all Sheffield Residents from NHS Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group

23 November 2021

Open letter to all Sheffield Residents

As you may have heard on the news or read online, there are currently unprecedented pressures across our health services in Sheffield. This is in common with most areas of the country and is leading to huge levels of demand for GP services.

You may have struggled to get in touch with your GP practice recently or had to wait for an appointment. We understand that this can be frustrating, especially if you are feeling ill. This has sometimes led to the misperception that practices are not seeing many patients. We want to reassure you that practices are doing all they can to get through to and see as many patients as possible.

Surgeries in Sheffield have worked incredibly hard to provide services throughout the COVID-19 crisis and continue to do so. We are very proud of how practice staff have responded to these challenges to care for you. This is at the same time as giving 382,510 people, two doses of the lifesaving covid vaccination since December.

For everyone’s safety and to ensure we continue to provide care, the way we respond to patients has had to change during the pandemic. England is still in the middle of a pandemic with very high rates of covid which are increasing in Sheffield day by day.

At the current time, our practice teams are working hard to protect patients and their staff from the deadly COVID-19 virus and stop the spread.

Many more video and telephone consultations are taking place to protect everyone and prioritise those most in need. We know many patients like not having to attend their surgery in person when the problem can be safely dealt with remotely. Not only do most patients like telephone and online appointments, but they also stop covid from spreading and staff can get through to more patients, including those with urgent health needs.

For these reasons, we see fewer patients face-to-face, but if you are assessed as needing a face-to-face appointment or if you request one you will still have one although you may have to wait a bit longer in some cases.

We want everyone to understand that we’re busy and what we’re doing in Sheffield to improve access. We also need your support to help us and help yourselves.

What we’re doing

GP surgeries are working hard to cope with the additional demand which includes bringing in more staff in different professional roles to help. Extra funding and support are also being shared across South Yorkshire to make even more appointments available.

NHS Sheffield CCG has invested in more evening and weekend appointments at extended access hubs across the City and are investing more in technology to improve communication and efficiency.

The CCG are also offering support to individual practices who may be struggling with staffing shortages or other problems to help them to continue to provide services.

Help us to help you

The public has given incredible support to the NHS during the pandemic but it’s not over yet and we still need your help.

When you’re unwell, A&E can seem like the quickest solution, but that’s not always the case. Only go to A&E or call 999 in an emergency life threatening situation. If your issue isn’t an emergency, there’s are more appropriate services for you to choose from:

• GP Hubs, which are open outside of your usual GP opening times

• The Minor Injuries Unit

• The Walk-in Centre

A trip to the pharmacist can also get you the same high level of care, but more quickly. Your local pharmacist can help and advice on the best treatment, they can also help you decide whether you need to see a doctor.

If you need to see a GP when your practice is closed, you can access the GP out of hours service known as GP Hubs. There are a range of NHS urgent and routine healthcare services available on weekday evenings and at weekends through hubs across Sheffield that are open 365 days a year. You can book appointments for these services through your usual GP practice or by contacting NHS 111 when your GP practice is closed.

If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, please don’t visit a surgery or pharmacy without first taking a test, using the information here.

While we know being poorly or injured can be stressful and concerning for patients and their families, please be kind to practice staff. We ask you to treat your doctors, their staff, and other visitors courteously and act reasonably at all times.

Thank you for your continuing support, from Sheffield’s Primary Care Clinical Leaders

Updated government guidance on PPE

Whilst the government guidance changed on the 19th July in respect to the wearing of masks we will continue to ask that they be worn when attending the practice.


As a health care provider we have worked tirelessly over the past 15 months to create a safe environment within which staff can work and you can attend. Whilst the number of positive cases continues to rise we believe it appropriate to continue with our current arrangements. You will therefore continue to be asked the COVID related questions, asked to wear a mask and you will be socially distanced in the waiting room.


Please note that we are still open from 8:30am until 6pm and w
e are still operating on a telephone triage basis initially, however, if you need to be seen face to face then the clinician will book you in.

Please respect the job that the receptionists are doing, they are working to protocols set out by NHS England and the partners in order to keep this practice operating as safely and efficiently as possible.


We hope you understand the reason for us continuing to work in this manner: the situation will be reviewed regularly and changes made where appropriate. Our key focus is keeping the staff and community as safe as possible, thank you for your understanding and continued support.

Covid 19 Vaccination Programme Update

We are contacting patients to book them into a covid-19 vaccination clinic in accordance with the criteria set by the Government.

As of 15 February, the covid-19 vaccine is being given to:

  • people aged 65 and over
  • people who are at high risk from coronavirus (clinically extremely vulnerable)
  • people who are at moderate risk from coronavirus (clinically vulnerable)
  • people who live or work in care homes
  • health and social care workers

 

More information can be found on the CCG’s website in the Frequently Asked Questions section https://www.sheffieldccg.nhs.uk/Your-Health/covid-19-vaccine-faqs.htm

Contact Information for COVID vaccinations

If you have not yet been invited for your COVID vaccination it may be due to your records not having an up to date mobile telephone number and / or you have not consented to receiving SMS text messages.

Please ensure that your details are correct, this can be done the following ways:

  1. Online if you are registered as an online user
  2. by completing an online form through the website https://www.foxhillmedicalcentre.co.uk/update-your-patient-record

Covid 19 Germ Defence - Information for patients

 

The following website will help you find out how to protect yourself. After a bit of practice the ideas and advice in Germ Defence will become habits and they will help protect you from coronavirus - and other germs in the future:

www.germdefence.org

 

COVID-19 Vaccination Pass

From 17 May 2021, people in England who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can demonstrate their vaccination status for international travel. A full course is currently two doses of any approved vaccine. Vaccine status will be available through the NHS COVID Pass service from: 

  • the NHS App which you can download from app stores 

  • the NHS website 

  • 119 - by requesting a paper letter

You will need to register to use the online services, if you have not already. It may take more than a week for your identity to be checked and verified.

If you cannot access the online services, and you have had both doses of the vaccine, you can request a paper letter from the NHS by calling 119. Only call 119 if you are due to travel outside the UK in the near future and have had your second dose more than 5 working days ago. It may take up to 7 working days for the letter to arrive.

This practice is not able to provide you with a letter that shows your COVID-19 vaccination status. Please do not contact the practice about your COVID-19 vaccination status unless you have been advised to by the 119 service.

When you're planning your travel, you should check the latest information on demonstrating your COVID-19 status when travelling abroad on the gov.uk website. Make sure there is enough time to get proof of your COVID-19 vaccination status before you are due to travel.

Information / Updates

Appointments

We receive many complaints regarding insufficient number of GP appointments. Going forward Foxhill will provide 158 hours of GP time which is the equivalent of 4.6 whole time equivalent (WTE) GPs. A practice of our size would be expected to have 3.5WTE.  We provide 396 GP appointments where the 'recommended/average' would be 336 for a practice of our size.  If you experience a problem in booking an appointment, this is likely due to high demand rather than provision of service. If you remain dissatisfied with the service please direct the complaint to your local MP.

Update on General Practice Data for planning and research

We wanted to share some information that we have received from the Department of Health and Social Care on 19th July 2021:

Patient data from general practice has significantly contributed to the improvement of health and care services and treatments for many years. Patients rightly trust their GP to safeguard their data, a role that we know that all general practitioners take very seriously. This is why I am writing to share more information with you about how we are working to improve how this data is collected.

NHS Digital is making improvements to how data is collected from general practice, with a new framework for data extraction called the General Practice Data for Planning and Research (GPDPR) collection. You will have seen the announcement to pause the collection of this data, to provide more time to engage with GPs, patients, health charities and others, and to strengthen the plan. We are working in collaboration with a range of partners including the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and the British Medical Association (BMA). I want to reassure you that we have heard your concerns loud and clear and will continue to listen.

I am writing now to provide an update on the four key areas of work to strengthen the plan. We hope this will foster your trust in the system and provide a strong basis for you and your patients to participate in the scheme with confidence. Most importantly, I can confirm today that, while we are continuing to work on the infrastructure, and communication for the project, we are not setting a specific start date for the collection of data. Instead, we commit to start uploading data only when we have the following in place:

  • the ability to delete data if patients choose to opt-out of sharing their GP data with NHS Digital, even if this is after their data has been uploaded;
  • the backlog of opt-outs has been fully cleared; 
  • a Trusted Research Environment has been developed and implemented in NHS Digital;
  • patients have been made more aware of the scheme through a campaign of engagement and communication. In this letter each of these adjustments are set out, all of which are critical to the success and impact of the programme, including through better understanding of the huge benefits the programme will have to the NHS and to our ability to provide the best and safest possible care for patients.

Opt-outs:

We want to make the position around opt-out much simpler. While 1st September has been seen by some as a cut-off date for opt-out, after which data extraction would begin, I want to reassure you that this will not be the case and data extraction will not commence until we have met the tests. We are introducing three changes to the opt-out system which mean that patients will be able to change their opt-out status at any time:

- Patients do not need to register a Type 1 opt-out by 1st September to ensure their GP data will not be uploaded;

- NHS Digital will create the technical means to allow GP data that has previously been uploaded to the system via the GPDPR collection to be deleted when someone registers a Type 1 opt-out;

- The plan to retire Type 1 opt-outs will be deferred for at least 12 months while we get the new arrangements up and running, and will not be implemented without consultation with the RCGP, the BMA and the National Data Guardian.

Together, these changes mean that patients can have confidence that they will have the ability to opt-in or opt-out of the system, and that the dataset will always reflect their current preference. And we will ensure it is easy for them to exercise the choice to opt[1]out.

 

We will also ensure that the NHS Digital Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) reflecting these changes to the programme is published well before data collection commences. A template DPIA for practice use will also be made available in good time to allow practices to complete it.

Data Security and Governance 

The Government has committed that access to GP data will only be via a Trusted Research Environment (TRE) and never copied or shipped outside the NHS secure environment, except where individuals have consented to their data being accessed e.g. written consent for a research study. This is intended to give both GPs and patients a very high degree of confidence that their data will be safe and their privacy protected. The TRE will be built in line with best practice developed in projects, such as OpenSAFELY and the Office for National Statistics’ Secure Research Service.

We are also committed to adopting a transparent approach, including publishing who has run what query and used which bit of data. We are developing a TRE which will meet our specific needs and act as “best in class”. We commit to only begin the data collection once the TRE is in place. Further, we will ensure that the BMA, RCGP and the National Data Guardian have oversight of the proposed arrangements and are satisfied with them before data upload begins.

I can also confirm that the previously published Data Provision Notice for this collection has been withdrawn.

Once the data is collected, it will only be used for the purposes of improving health and care. Patient data is not for sale and will never be for sale.

Transparency, communications and engagement

There has been a great deal of concern regarding the lack of awareness amongst the healthcare system and patients. We recognise that we need to strengthen engagement, including opportunities for non-digital engagement and communication. Since the programme has been paused, we have been developing an engagement and communications campaign, with the goal of ensuring that the healthcare system and patients are aware and understand what is planned, and can make informed choices. The public rightly look to and trust general practice - through a centrally driven communication campaign, with clear messages, we will seek to ensure that the introduction of this collection does not impose an additional burden on practices.

We are developing a communications strategy delivered through four phases.

  • Listening - where we listen to stakeholders and gather views on how best to communicate with the profession, patients and the public and give them the opportunity to inform the development of the programme in areas such as opt-outs, trusted research environments and other significant areas;
  • Consultation - a series of events where we can explain the programme, listen and capture feedback and co-design the information campaign;
  • Demonstration - show how feedback is being used to develop the programme and shape communications to the healthcare system and the public;
  • Delivery - of an information campaign to inform the healthcare system and the public about changes to how their GP data is used, that utilises the first three phases to ensure the campaign is accessible, has wide reach and is effective.

Data saves lives. The vaccine rollout for COVID-19 could not have been achieved without patient data. The discovery that the steroid Dexamethasone could save the lives of one third of the most vulnerable patients with COVID-19 – those on ventilators - could not have been made without patient data from GP practices in England. That insight has gone on to save a million lives around the globe. That is why this programme is so important.

The programme and I will be providing further information as the programme progresses.

In the meantime, if you have any questions, you can contact the programme at enquiries@nhsdigital.nhs.uk.

The NHS Digital web pages also provide further information at https://digital.nhs.uk/data[1]and-information/data-collections-and-data-sets/data-collections/general-practice-data-for[1]planning-and-research#additional-information-for-gp-practices.

Thank you for your continued support.

JO CHURCHILL

Parliamentary under Secretary of State for Primary Care and Health Promotion

Contraception update

Foxhill Medical Centre no longer has the facility to insert or change contraceptive Coils or Implants.

You will need to self-refer to Sheffield Sexual Health on 0114 226 8888 who will be able to direct you to a local service to meet your needs.

If your Coil is part of HRT/treatment of menopausal symptoms only, you will need to speak to a GP for a consultation.