Dr Chapple – St Georges Surgery

A Challenging Year

After a very challenging year for St Georges and the rest of the NHS, as Senior Partner I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you for the hard work from our all our staff and the amazing support from our patients which has allowed us to continue to safely deliver primary care services and to play our part in the hugely successful Cheltenham Covid vaccination programme.

Our staff have gone above and beyond for over a year to deliver the best service possible, in line with the National Infection Control guidelines set out by NHS England. Social distancing, shielding and the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) have allowed us to keep both patients and staff as safe as possible in the face of an ever-changing virus that has caused a huge amount of loss and suffering.

The NHS and St Georges Surgery have never faced a challenge of this magnitude. Despite that, our staff have just pulled together with their inherent good cheer remaining professional, dedicated and hardworking in an environment that has been difficult, and at times has presented a clear and significant risk to their health and increased the risk of transmission of this deadly virus to their loved ones, including frail and elderly relatives.

We mourn the loss of all those who have died from Covid, including front line health care workers.

The Covid vaccination clinic at the Fire Station was set up as soon as the vaccine became approved and available. This involved a huge amount of work behind the scenes and was a massive logistic and administrative effort. It is a testament to our staff and the community volunteers involved, that both Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock mentioned the Cheltenham vaccination clinic in national media briefings highlighting it, as an exemplar of best practice. Matt Hancock has privately and personally Zoomed us to thank us. A huge thank you also to our patients who have taken the time to feedback their positive experiences at the vaccination clinic. This feedback means a huge amount to those volunteering for extra shifts to keep delivering the service at the fastest pace that we can. We remain in a race against time to vaccinate our population.

The vaccination clinic is a great example of all the Cheltenham GP surgeries working together to deliver a common goal. This integration of clinical services has shown us that when we come together, we are more than the sum of our parts. There will be more of this type of work in the future.

We are already preparing for the winter flu vaccination programme and this year, and for possibly years to come, we may need to incorporate Covid booster vaccinations alongside the normal Flu jab rollout, to help combat emerging new strains. The vaccine uptake in this Country is I think a measure of people’s intelligence and understanding that vaccination is our only way out and I thank you for your engagement.

I would particularly like to thank you our patients for your forbearance over the last 14 months. We know that access to the surgery has been challenging at times and that telephone consultations are a compromise. We as clinicians share your anxieties. Contrary to media stories, the clinicians at St Georges have been seeing patients face to face, where clinically appropriate, continuously since the first day of lockdown last year. We are in the process of returning to a more normal service as restrictions ease, and I can promise you that we at the Surgery are as anxious as you are for normality to return.

During the Covid period we have seen the introduction of e-consult which those of you trying to contact the Surgery will have come up against. This is a new system introduced by NHS England and is something that we are all trying to come to terms with. Like any new system there are teething problems and again I can assure you that we are as aware as you are of some of its shortcomings, but we have no choice but to work with it, and I’m confident that with time we can improve it and make it a system that works well, primarily for you our patients but also for us in trying to deliver the best possible care we can.

The next year or two will continue to be challenging. Covid is not going to go away overnight and there will be bumps in the road as new variants emerge. Alongside this there will be issues with longer than normal waiting times for hospital appointments. What I can promise you however is that we at St Georges will continue to strive to put you front and centre of everything we do. I am so proud of everyone who works at St Georges. They’re an extraordinary group of people, and I only wish I could show you the behind-the-scenes work they perform every day to try and make things as good as they can be for people we serve.

On a personal note, I retire at the end of July. It is 40 years since I went to Medical School and I am humbled and honoured to have worked at St Georges for the last 27 years and I leave knowing that you could not be in better hands. Thank you all.

Dr Robert Chapple
Senior Partner