COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It’s caused by a virus called coronavirus. Because this is a new illness it has been able to spread quickly, which is why the Government and the NHS are taking significant steps to combat it.
As patients and citizens, it is vital that we all follow the advice and do our bit to help minimise the spread of the illness.
We know this is a fast moving situation and things are changing quickly.
We’ll update this page with general information and specific changes here at the practice. Please bookmark or save this page for future reference.
Only leave your home if it’s essential. This will help stop the spread of coronavirus.
To protect others, do not go to places like a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. Stay at home.
If you have symptoms, use the 111 online coronavirus service to find out what to do.
Changes to Fell Tower Medical Centre
To help minimise the impact of coronavirus, there are a number of changes we have made to our normal services.
Focus on Urgent Care
We’ll focus our short-term capacity on urgent care and questions from unwell patients. This means reducing our routine or non-urgent work like NHS health checks or minor surgery, and redeploying staff to help with urgent situations and unwell patients.
All appointments are telephone first
All appointments will be carried out over the telephone in the first instance. If you need to be seen by a clinician, we’ll give you a time and location to come and been assessed in person.
Please do not come to Fell Tower Medical Centre without an appointment.
Do not come to the Practice without an appointment
If you think you may have coronavirus, do not come to the practice. Return home and consult NHS 111 online. Only come to the practice if you have spoken to a member of the team and they have asked you to come in.
Online booking temporarily suspended
We have turned off online appointment booking until further notice. In person appointments will only be arranged by practice staff when necessary.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) refers to items like gowns, gloves and masks.
NHS and government guidance says staff should use PPE at all times to keep themselves and patients as safe as possible.
Practice Nurse Appointments
Until further notice, only necessary procedures will be carried out by the Practice Nurse team, e.g urgent bloods or dressings. Please check with the Reception team if the procedure you require is urgent and necessary or if it can be delayed to a later date. Where possible, chronic disease reviews will be carried out in a telephone appointment.
Frequently asked questions
You may have lots of questions about what to do at certain times, or about the advice given to you. We’ve done our best to explain something as simply as possible below.
What is Shielding?
Extra protection for people with underlying health conditions who are more likely to get ill.
Everyone who is medically recognised as at risk will receive a letter strongly advising they avoid face to face interaction for 12 weeks, though this may change.
What is social Distancing?
Avoiding close contact with people, whether you have symptoms or not. •Work from home if you can
- Don’t use public transport unless there is no other option
- Avoid anyone with symptoms – cough, fever etc
- Avoid public gatherings, even visiting family or friends
- Use phone or online for essentials services like contacting your GP
This means staying at home and not going out unless you absolutely have to (collecting food or medicine). Anyone with any symptoms should do this.
If you do go out, stay at least 2 metres (3 steps) away from anyone else. More here.
Do I need a sick note if I’m Self-Isolating?
No, you do not need to see a GP or contact the NHS if you are self-isolating.
You can get an isolation note to give to your employer by visiting the 111.nhs.uk/isolation-note.
How serious is Coronavirus?
For most people, it will be a mild illness if they get it, but for others it can be fatal.
It is a new illness and very infectious, which is why following Government and NHS advice to reduce its spread is so important.
This situation is unprecedented, and it’s vital we all follow advice and act responsibly.
Who is most at risk?
People with a range of existing health conditions, particularly if their immune system has been affected, or with respiratory issues.
You can read more about vulnerable groups and measures to protect them here. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19
How does Coronavirus spread?
Because it is so new, we don’t exactly know. Similar illnesses are spread by cough droplets, which is why hand hygiene and avoiding close contact with others is so important.
Advice on handwashing
How do I know if I have Coronavirus?
If you have a temperature or a new continuous cough, then you may have coronavirus.
Visit the NHS Coronavirus service and answer the questions for advice.
What do I do if I have symptoms?
Stay at home, visit nhs.111.uk and follow the advice.
Do not visit a GP, Hospital or Pharmacy.
Prescriptions and medication
General advice on our prescribing, and information about specific conditions and medications
Ordering More Medicines Than Usual
To help manage the supply of medicines across the country, we need to make sure everyone has access to their normal medicines at the appropriate time.
We’re urging patients not to over-order their repeat prescriptions or request advance medicine supplies. Order as you would normally do. Do not ask for an increased supply if you don’t need it, only order one month at a time, unless you’ve been advised differently by your healthcare professional.
To make the process easier, some patients will start having their regular prescription sent to the pharmacy automatically through the Electronic Repeat Dispensing service. This will mean you don’t need to contact the surgery to order your regular prescription, and the pharmacy can better plan what medicines to order and when they need to be ready for you to collect.
You can nominate a pharmacy to have your prescription sent to online or by calling us. Reducing visits to the practice will help stop infections spreading.
Electronic Repeat Dispensing
Electronic Repeat Dispensing (eRD) allows GPs to authorise your repeat medication for up to one year. Prescriptions are then automatically sent to the pharmacy at regular intervals (for example, every month).
This will mean you don’t need to contact the surgery to order your regular prescription, and the pharmacy can better plan what medicines to order and when they need to be ready for you to collect.
If your condition changes or you stop a medicine, your GP can amend your prescription for the future instalments. You can change pharmacies at any time during the duration of the eRD prescription. If clinically appropriate you can request the next issue early or obtain more than one prescription, for example when going on holiday.
410 million repeat prescriptions are generated every year – equivalent to an average of more than 375 per GP per week. Switching 80% of these to eRD could save 2.7 million hours of GP and practice time, meaning more time to care for patients.
To nominate a pharmacy to have your prescriptions sent to, call us on 0191 281 4588 or use our online services, if you are registered.
Ibuprofen and Other Anti-Inflammatory Medicines
There is currently no strong evidence that ibuprofen can make coronavirus (COVID-19) worse.
But until we have more information, take paracetamol to treat the symptoms of coronavirus, unless your doctor has told you paracetamol is not suitable for you.
Patients who have confirmed COVID-19 or believe they have COVID-19 should use paracetamol in preference to ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatory medicines.
Those currently taking ibuprofen or another non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (such as naproxen or diclofenac) on the advice of a doctor for other medical reasons (e.g. arthritis) should not stop them without checking first.
ACE-I and ARB drugs
Many patients are prescribed an ACE-I or ARB drug (ending in “pril” or “sartan”). These are used to treat a wide range of health conditions, including high blood pressure, kidney disease, and heart conditions. There is lots of high quality evidence that these medicines improve people’s health.
If you take an ACE-I or ARB medicine, it is strongly recommend that you continue to take your usual therapy. You should not stop taking these medicines without discussing it with your doctor first.
There has been some speculation in the media that ACE-I and ARB drugs might increase the risk and severity of Coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. This will provoke anxiety for many people taking these medicines and leave them uncertain about the best action to take.
There is a lack of any evidence supporting these claims of harmful effect of ACE-I and ARB. Patients are assured that they should continue these medicines unless told otherwise by a healthcare professional.
For some people, particularly those with heart failure, stopping the drugs suddenly can lead them to become unwell. This can cause people to become more breathless and may create uncertainty about whether symptoms are due to infection (such as COVID-19), or to underlying health problems.
This advice will be updated as needed while health experts review the available evidence.
Patients with Asthma, COPD or other lung conditions
Using your inhalers as prescribed will help cut your risk of an asthma attack being triggered by any respiratory virus, including coronavirus. Carry your reliever inhaler every day.
Even at this busy time for the NHS, getting early support for any problems with your lungs is critical to keep you well and out of hospital.
Some people with lung conditions are prescribed rescue packs of steroid tablets. If you’re normally advised to have a rescue pack available to treat your lung condition then it’s a good idea to check you have one.
Some patients with COPD who have exacerbations and normally have a rescue pack as part of their personalised action plan should continue to use these as recommended in their personalised plan.
Advice from the British Lung Foundation and Asthma UK is that rescue packs are not recommended for people with asthma as standard. If someone’s asthma is bad enough to consider rescue steroids, then it is essential that they are assessed by a healthcare professional.
If you have asthma, more health advice is available on the Asthma UK website here.
Patients With Mild Asthma Who Don’t Normally Have A Preventer Inhaler
If you only have mild asthma and your symptoms are controlled with a reliever inhaler (usually salbutamol or terbutaline), you don’t need to use a preventer inhaler.
Evidence shows that if your asthma is normally well controlled without needing to use a preventer inhaler (containing an inhaled steroid), you are unlikely to get any significant benefit from starting to use one.
We have seen an increase in the number of requests for preventer inhalers from people who don’t normally use them. At the same time, there has been a recent stock shortage of these inhalers. It is very important we make sure the people who rely on these inhalers can continue to get them so that their asthma doesn’t get worse. We will only prescribe inhaled steroids to patients who have a clinical need for them.
General Advice for Patients Taking One or More Of The Following Medications
This information is not specific to patients with suspected Coronavirus.
If you are taking any of the following medicines and develop a dehydrating illness (diarrhoea, vomiting or a high temperature associated with not eating and drinking adequately) you should consult a Healthcare Professional.
- ACEi e.g., enalapril, lisinopril, perinopril, or ramipril
- ARBs e.g. candesartan, losartan, irbesartan or valsartan
- Diuretics (water tablets) e.g. furosemide, indapamide, bumetanide, spironolactone, or eplerenone
- Anti-inflammatories e.g.ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac, or indomethacin
- Diabetes drugs including metformin, canagliflozin, dapagliflozin, empagliflozin and ertugliflozin.
If the Healthcare Professional advises stopping any of the above medications, then they should also advise when to restart your medication once you have recovered from the illness. Typically, this would be after 24 to 48 hours of eating and drinking normally.
Links and Resources
Coronavirus Updates in sign language
I need Help – Help and advice for Gateshead residents
Check if you have Coronavirus symptoms
Get an isolation note for your employer