Firs House and Telegraph surgery:  Working through the Covid19 Pandemic

We are living and working in unprecedented times.  Never did we think that our front door would be closed during the working day.  We want to reassure everyone that this measure was taken to ensure we could keep the surgery as safe as possible for those patients who still need to attend in person and for the staff who continue to work.  We would like to reassure all our patients that we are still open and providing medical services. 

Whilst our clinicians miss seeing patients face to face and find if a challenge to work remotely, the need for a face to face appointment has to outweigh the risk of potentially contracting Covid19 both for patient and clinician.  We are following national guidance and anticipate that we may have to continue to work in different ways for some time to enable us to provide a safe service for the likely long duration of the Pandemic.  A significant proportion of our workforce is currently shielding due to underlying significant vulnerability or vulnerabilities and working remotely or avoiding any patient contacts including members of the nursing and medical team.  We will not be able to resume normal services until we can be sure it is safe for our patients, our colleagues and staff who also have vulnerable family members to consider.

 How do the appointments work during this pandemic?

  • Please telephone the surgery Monday to Friday as you usually would
  • The Receptionist will assess your request and book you for a telephone call with a clinician. We will always ask what the problem is so that you can be called by the appropriate person.
  • At this time we do not have individual Doctors’ clinics as we cannot guarantee who will be available. You can request to speak to a specific person and if it is possible this will be done.
  • The GP, Nurse Practitioner or Practice Nurse will call you back. The time will depend on the number of calls requested on the day and how long these take.
  • We have incorporated in our confidential clinical system a new software system approved by NHS England which allows video consultation and the use of clinical photography in line with CQC and GMC guidelines.

How are the GPs working?

  • We are very busy mainly with phone consultations and video calls. We are seeing a lower number of patients face to face but have the facility to do this safely at our branch surgery if necessary where the GP will wear PPE to keep patients safe. This follows national guidelines to minimise risk to patients from necessary visits to the surgery. The majority of patient concerns can be appropriately managed via a remote consultation.
  • If face to face assessment is warranted we try to limit the contact time and the risk to the patient, and perform the physical examination only in full protective equipment having discussed the history over the phone prior the assessment. We have been provided some PPE by the NHS and purchased ourselves extra equipment to ensure our patients are safely assessed and to protect our staff, families and ourselves. The PPE is limited and we have the use the equipment sensibly as we are unsure how long the risk and restrictions will last for and also considering there is a nationwide shortage of PPE if we were to run out.
  • We have a mixture of inquiries and conditions presenting. All patients with a clinical inquiry will speak to a clinician. Patients who need to be seen will be triaged and given a time to come to the surgery.
  • Patients, with very few exceptions, are being extremely understanding and appropriate in terms of their requests.
  • We are still, of course, making referrals to urgent outpatient clinics or for more immediate assessment where we suspect serious conditions, for example cancers, heart disease, unwell feverish children etc .  Secondary care has cancelled or suspended all routine referrals at the present time and we are awaiting further guidelines from the hospitals with regards to when the services will be available again.
  • We very much encourage patients to use resources such as NHS 111 and NHS Choices online sites if concerned about any symptoms and not to delay coming forwards with symptoms that might need urgent assessment.

 How are the nursing team working?

  • The nurses are also triaging and carrying out urgent blood tests, dressings and children’s immunisations plus other absolutely necessary procedures.
  • The clinics are organised to keep wait times and the number of people in the waiting room to a minimum so social distancing can be maintained. Some people prefer to wait outside or in their car with a mobile phone and tell us when they are here.  This is working too.
  • Some routine procedures and blood tests that can safely wait a little longer have been deferred to help us keep you safe.
  • We are very aware that some of the patients who cannot wait for care are very vulnerable. We can reassure patients attending that the nursing team wear PPE (gowns, aprons, gloves, masks and goggles) and safety measures are being adhered to.

 Admin support

  • Our management team are closely monitoring guidance and helping us adapt to the many changes that are happening
  • We are continually sourcing PPE to keep everyone as safe as we can
  • Our secretarial and admin teams are working on site and remotely and continue to support the team

Staff working from home

  • Very early on we established which of our staff should be working from home. So we have a number of admin and clinical staff working remotely with NHS approved encrypted IT so we can continue to offer all necessary services.
  • Members of the nursing team who are working from home are contacting all our vulnerable shielding patients and have started welfare checks on our elderly particularly those living alone. We are signposting to appropriate help including the volunteers in Histon and Cottenham.
  • We are protecting our vulnerable staff as per government guidelines and this has resulted in a reduction of the staff available for face to face assessment.

We fully appreciate the help we have had getting PPE, donations of hand cream and a generous amount of Easter Eggs and would like to thank everyone who has contributed and to thank the local community for their support.

Please note that the following information only applies to non pandemic working:

Before booking an appointment, please read guidance on what service and Clinician is best to deal with your symptoms.  Click HERE for more information.

In order to be able to book you in with the most appropriate member of clinical staff, our Reception Team may have to ask you brief questions about your medical condition and the treatment you feel you need. This ensures that you receive the proper level of care and at the most appropriate time. Any information you give is strictly confidential and all staff are bound by this. If you feel you wish to speak privately, away from Reception, then please say. If any issue is very private and you do not wish to give details, this will always be respected.


60% of our appointments are available for patients to book and be seen on the same day they make contact with the surgery, whilst the remaining 40% can be booked up to 1-2 weeks in advance.

The same day appointments will be released on our computer system and can be booked online from 19:00 the night before, and again at 07:00 each morning. You can also book same day appointments by speaking to Reception via telephone from 08:00 when the surgery phone lines open.

If you need urgent medical advice during surgery hours, phone the surgery on 01223 234 286. Please be prepared to give some information to the Receptionist so they can book the proper level of care at the most appropriate time.

We encourage patients to use online patient access system. Please read more HERE.

Telephone Appointments
You can request a telephone consultation with the doctor or nurse, which they normally do after their morning surgery. The receptionist will advise you approximately what time you can expect a call you back on the contact telephone number you provide.  Please make sure you are available to take the call at the time you are advised.

If urgent care is required please call ‘111’ for further advice. If your need is life threatening, please go to A&E or call 999.

Extended GP Opening Hours in the evenings and at weekend

We offer routine, pre-bookable appointments with a GP or nurse which help you to be seen sooner – often on the same day. The appointment may be at Firs House, Cottenham Surgeries or another Surgery nearby. The surgeries are:

Nuffield Road Medical Centre, 10 Pippin Drive, Cambridge, CB4 1GL
Comberton Surgery, 58 Green End, Comberton, Cambridge, CB23 7DY
St Mary’s Surgery, 37 St Mary’s Street, Ely, CB7 4HF
Royston Health Centre, Melbourne Street, Royston, SG8 7BS

You will be given a choice on when you would like to book your appointment and information on where to go.

How do you book?
You can book an appointment through Reception on 01223 234 286 who will give you the time, date and venue for your appointment.

These are for non-urgent, routine appointments only.  Services we can offer within the Extended Access are -
- GP Consultations
- Advanced Nurse Practitioner consultations
- Nurse appointments offering dressings, asthma and diabetes reviews, contraception reviews, etc
- Health Care Assistant appointments offering ear irrigation, wound care, blood test, etc
- Phlebotomy: Routine blood tests are available within our Extended Access Clinics

Please note that your consent for our clinician to view your medical record will be required in order for an appointment to be booked for you.

If urgent care is required please call ‘111’ or go to 111 online for further advice. If your need is life threatening, please go to A&E or call 999.

For support with the management of minor ailments, please contact your local pharmacist or visit the NHS website.

Patients who cannot be seen
- Patients identified with a potentially life-threatening medical condition which required referral to urgent or emergency care settings
- Walk-in patients

Saturday morning clinics and early morning appointments are available at Firs House Surgery for our extended hours surgeries.

Saturday Morning appointments will be available between 08:30 and 12:00 on:

There will also be early appointments available on some Wednesday and Friday mornings.  Please ask Reception for availability.

Follow Up Appointments
If a doctor needs to see you for a follow up appointment, you will be given a slip to take to a receptionist to book an appointment with the doctor you were advised to see.

If you require a chaperone during your visit to the doctor or nurse please inform reception preferably when booking your appointment. Our receptionists are trained to be chaperones during consultations.

If you cannot attend an appointment for any reason please inform us as soon as possible in order for us to give the slot to someone else.

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