As we are entering the Christmas month, we are filled with festive cheer and busy days and nights running around headless in the cold! Although it is ‘the most wonderful time of the year’, we must be aware it is also the most busiest in every aspect!
To make sure everyone is aware of how their GP Practices will be available, we have put together some important information for patients and Practice managers.
We are all aware of ‘winter pressures’, which put a strain on all Primary Care services. So to ensure patients can get the best services;
Practices should ensure that:
- patients are aware of any closures in advance by using surgery notices, and including messages on repeat prescriptions
- arrangements are in place to ensure that repeat prescriptions are ordered and collected in a timely matter to avoid requests over the period of practice closure
- answer phone messages should be changed at 18:30 on the afternoons of early closure – in particular – for opted out practices where there is a change from the sub-contracted provider to NHS 111
Helpful tips to prepare for the holiday period
In addition to the contractual guidance below, the following are suggestions for actions practices might consider to ensure your patients’ reasonable needs and your practices’ contractual obligations are met.
Following these tips will help to promote the smooth running of out of hours services and to ease pressures on your practice on days when the practice is open:
- Minimise or avoid pre-booking advance appointments, particularly for non-essential services, from 23 December to 6 January
- Minimise or avoid appointments for routine consultations, i.e. non-essential services from 23 December to 6 January
- Ensure on any half day closing that a GP from the practice is contactable by the covering out of hours or other service in case of unforeseen queries
- Advertise practice half day closing arrangements well in advance on prescription counterfoils, posters and other media at the practice, commencing as soon as possible if you have not already done so
- Extend repeat prescriptions so they do not fall due during the period 23 December to 6 January
- Ensure pharmacists collect “collection and delivery” prescriptions before the practice closes
- Ensure patients on opiate substitution prescriptions have enough to cover practice closure periods and collect their prescriptions before closing
- Ensure urgent lab tests carried out during this period have the clinical condition and phone number of the patient clearly on the form
- Ensure special notes are sent to the out of hours organisation on vulnerable patients e.g. those without mental capacity, those with complex or terminal conditions and those where special arrangements are in place (e.g. GP to be informed during the out of hours period if patient dies)
- Ensure residential and nursing home patients have repeat prescriptions, know the opening times and any sick patients have been reviewed before closing the practice 
We hope this helps you, and allows patients to know what to expect during this time of year.
Tis’ the season to be jolly after all!
 Bma.org.uk, (2015). BMA – GP Services During Holiday Period | British Medical Association. [online] Available at: http://bma.org.uk/support-at-work/gp-practices/service-provision/gp-services-during-holiday-period [Accessed 3 Dec. 2015].