Winter months are always a difficult time in the NHS, and our climate doesn’t help! Cold weather, winter flu, respiratory conditions and the dreaded vomiting bugs all add pressure to an already stretched NHS service both in general practice and hospital.

In recent years, the pressure has been extreme with hospital wards and A&E departments quickly becoming full to capacity. Beds being blocked because of a lack of community facilities available for patients who are not quite well enough to return home but not sick enough to stay in hospital. GP practices swamped by demand, meaning that patients were waiting in some cases over two weeks to be seen.

Following an already difficult winter, spring 2020 saw the arrival of Covid-19 in the UK. We spent over three months in lockdown with a phased return to the ‘new normal’ over the summer months. As we head into autumn, we are once again concerned with the start of the traditional flu campaign, winter pressures and now the imminent threat of a second wave of coronavirus, the demand on our practices and hospitals is increasing.

So how can we mitigate these risks and respond to the triple whammy?

Practice staff are not immune from contracting seasonal viruses and bugs, nor coronavirus. Staff shortages will have an impact on a practice’s ability to respond to demand effectively. Engage Consult can help practices address staff shortages, staff working from home or those self-isolating. The application can be used on any device connected to the internet, meaning that clinicians and admin staff can still monitor and respond to patient requests remotely. Guidance on how to access Engage Consult remotely can be found in our Educational Hub.

Our online video consultation solution allows staff to communicate with patients and carers where more information or sight of the patient would help with a diagnosis or treatment plan. The safety of care home patients safe is vitally important as they are particularly vulnerable at this time of year. Video consultation can be used to conduct a multi-disciplinary ward round within care and residential homes, reducing the need for home visits in some instances, unless clinically necessary.

The secure 2-way messaging function offers a safe and secure way of handling patient requests for medical or admin support. It can also be used to send reminders or additional information to patients by attaching patient leaflets or guidelines to outgoing messages. Practices could also use this facility to promote their flu campaign and send out public health advice for the ‘Hands…Face…Space’ coronavirus campaign.

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The system allows practices to upload local and national guidance and leaflets signposting patients to the latest advice on coronavirus symptoms and other seasonal conditions.

As we write this blog, local lockdowns are becoming widespread, and Government guidance has once again changed. We have been told to work from home wherever possible, facemasks are compulsory, and no more than six people can meet indoors. Practices will be continuing to manage demand, triaging patients’ appointment requests and using the most appropriate mode of consultation based on the patients’ needs. Engage Consult can help you to manage this workload effectively using Total Triage. If you require more information on how to set up Engage Consult for Total Triage, you can find more information here.

Our latest feature, inter-organisational working, helps practices or PCNs set up a ‘hub’ where all requests are received and dealt with by one designated team. This feature allows with business continuity and staff shortages, enabling practices to meet demand more effectively. Staff can log in remotely, so there is no need for this team to be located in one place.

We are producing a number of social media posts that practices can use following the latest government and Public Health England campaign’ Hands, Face, Space’. These can be downloaded from Educational Hub or retweeted from our posts on social media.


For more information, please contact us on 01263 888330.