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Keith Health Centre open for business behind 'closed doors'


By Chris Saunderson

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KEITH Health Centre is very much open and working hard to look after its 7300 patients, despite the challenges of coronavirus.

That's the message from practice manager Lynn Ross and the team.

Practice manager Lynn Ross. Picture: Eric Cormack.
Practice manager Lynn Ross. Picture: Eric Cormack.

She admitted that the last six months of the pandemic had "turned general practice on its head".

Keith health centre has literally had to lock the door to control access to the tight confines of its reception area, however, every effort is being made to offer face-to-face appointments for those who need them.

Ms Ross said she was keen to let people know what has been happing behind Keith's 'closed doors'.

She said the pandemic has completely changed the way GP practices work and, despite a public perception to the contrary, practices nationwide are now working harder than ever to support patients.

Lead nurse June Jamieson finalises some details with a patient. Picture: Eric Cormack.
Lead nurse June Jamieson finalises some details with a patient. Picture: Eric Cormack.

"We understand that some may feel that the practice has been difficult to access and that many services have been paused.

"We continue to follow guidance from NHS Scotland, NHS Grampian and the Royal College of

General Practitioners on the maintenance of primary care services in the context of limiting the

spread of Covid-19.

Life has changed at Keith Health Centre. Picture: Eric Cormack.
Life has changed at Keith Health Centre. Picture: Eric Cormack.

"It has not been an easy time for anyone, and we would like to thank the local community for being so understanding.

"We are all in this together. Let us all support and try to look after each other. The Keith community spirit is very strong and we should all continue to do what we can to support the frail and vulnerable in our locality. A little kindness goes a long way."

It has been impossible to keep to the two metre rule in the reception area and the waiting room can only now accomodate a few patients.

"The corridors are narrow and staff areas have had to be re-organised to allow for social distancing. It is for this reason that we have had to lock the front door and ask patients to wait outside until they are collected by their nurse or doctor and escorted into and out of the building." The centre has four GP partners and the team employed by the practice is made up of onesalaried GP, an advanced nurse practitioner, two practice nurses, two healthcare assistants, onepharmacy technician and a team of administrative staff.

The wider health team, employed by the NHS, includes community nurses, health visitors and midwife, part-time pharmacists, a physiotherapist and a frailty nurse.

"Each and every member of our team has continued to work throughout the pandemic, and have had to adapt and change the way they work with little or no time for preparation.

"We have not furloughed staff, and at times have absorbed the additional workload created by our own staff requiring Covid testing and self-isolation.

"Ensuring that the health centre is Covid Compliant is no mean feat in our existing building which we rent from the Health Board.

The Keith team has been working as hard as ever, from left, Lynn Ross (practice manager), Dr Clare Green, Frances Greig (admin), Claire Hastie (admin) and advanced nurse practitioner Gillian Walker. Picture: Eric Cormack.
The Keith team has been working as hard as ever, from left, Lynn Ross (practice manager), Dr Clare Green, Frances Greig (admin), Claire Hastie (admin) and advanced nurse practitioner Gillian Walker. Picture: Eric Cormack.

"Patients are asked to sanitise their hands on entering and leaving the building and to bring and wear a face covering.

"We ask those arriving on foot not to arrive early for their appointment, as they may have to wait outside. This is not ideal and if the weather is particularly bad we allow some patients into the waiting room. We have looked at ways of providing some kind of outside shelter, but this has not been possible to date.

All of the extra precautions mean that a normal 10 minute appointment actually takes at least 30 minutes.

"We have had to learn very quickly how to deliver care in new ways. Technology has proved to be invaluable, allowing us to continue to “see” patients via video appointments (Near Me), in situations where the doctor or nurse feels that they need to see the patient with the least risk to all.

A huge number of appointments are now carried out by phone.

However, despite the challenges the team is operating at full capacity and staff remain committed to caring for the people of Keith and the surrounding population.

Ms Ross said the winter ahead is likely to be extra challenging this year.

"Each member of our team is also a patient, with family and all the normal concerns and troubles that can come with it. We need to remember that we are all human and that a little patience and understanding goes a long way."

Patients can play their part in helping the health centre team:

  • Use the website and other resources such as NHS Inform.
  • Ensure that your contact details are up to date as some clinics are being rebooked.
  • If your condition is a minor one, please ask the community pharmacy for advice.
  • Order your medication in a timely manner, but not too early. By far the safest, quickest and easiest way to order is via the online service at www.keithhealthcentre.co.uk or contact the health centre to register for this service.
  • Please give as much detail to reception staff as possible to allow them to direct your call appropriately. Please, please understand that the person who answers the phone is simply carrying out instructions – they do not make the rules. Try not to vent your frustrations on them – they have an incredibly hard job and feel sometimes that they “are not managing to please anyone!”
  • Emergency triage is for emergencies only – this service is for patients who need to see or speak with GP/nurse urgently that day.
  • Play your part – the surgery has an active Patient Participation group, formed from the local community and it is constantly looking for new members.


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