FAMILY doctors across north Cumbria are changing the way they work as they adapt to the coronavirus crisis - and try to guard against its spread, say health chiefs.

In a statement, the NHS body which oversees the work of GP practices said family doctors and their wider teams are working hard to keep patients well but warned that the way they do that might well now be different.

There are two main changes patients should expect to see. They are:

• You won’t be able to have an appointment without a conversation on the phone or on-line – and your query might be dealt with on the phone or online. If you are invited for a face-to-face appointment you might be asked to attend a different surgery and see a different healthcare professional

• GPs are working ensure that patients who probably have Covid-19 can be seen in one location which will become an area’s hub - or red centre, solely for use by potentially infected patients

Dr Colin Patterson, clinical lead for NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “The challenges facing the NHS are unprecedented, and we have been working on making sure our environment keeps patients and NHS teams as safe as possible by making use of telephone and online.

“It's important that our general practice teams remain resilient in the face of increasing pressures, and that GPs and their wider healthcare teams and our out of hour’s provider Cumbria Health On Call (CHOC) work together at a local level.

“Groups of practices – known as Primary Care Networks – are working together to make sure that they are reducing the risk of infection by consulting with patients as much as possible by phone and digital links.

“They are still seeing patients with health needs and are still offering essential routine appointments, but everyone will have a conversation on the phone before being invited for their appointment which in some cases might not be at your usual surgery.

“We are also planning those patients who need medical assessment and are poorly or potentially poorly with Covid-19 will be seen locally in one place with strict infection control measures in place.”

In Eden this will be at Penrith Hospital; in Copeland it will be Flatt Walks Surgery in Whitehaven. Other areas are developing their hubs.

Pharmacy teams are also trying to ensure patients get the medicines they need.

To help them to help you, patients should follow government advice and not visit a pharmacy if they or anyone in their household has a temperature or a new and continuous cough. Patients should to order prescriptions a week before they are due.

Put your contact details on it so pharmacies can let you know when your medicines are ready.

NHS bosses have also asked that patients do not ring the pharmacy unless it’s urgent. If you are self-isolating please ask family, friends or neighbours to arrange to pick up your medication for you. If you don’t have anyone who can collect your medicine, speak to your community pharmacy for advice about how they can help.

If you are well and can visit the pharmacy yourself, think about how you can help family, friends and neighbours who are self-isolating by collecting their medicines on their behalf (you may need to take ID with you and will need to know the name and address of the person you are collecting for).

Do not ask for extra medicine or an increase in prescription duration as this could lead to overall medicines shortages. Continue to request as normal and do not stockpile.

You may have to queue and respect social distancing at your pharmacy. Some pharmacies are closing for part of the day to enable them to respond to demand