If you’re wondering how health services are different as a result of coronavirus or which service is right for you – we’re here to help.
Changes to services
Coronavirus has changed how NHS services work.
The changes are to keep the public, patients and NHS staff safe.
With the virus putting pressure on the NHS, to keep us all safe, it’s more important than ever to use the services wisely.
We are here to help you find the right care in the right place and provide advice on how to look after yourself this winter.
If we all follow the advice we can keep well this winter and get the care we need quickly, safely and as close to home as possible.
Looking after yourself
Nobody wants to be unwell, but we should be prepared for common illnesses.
Before you phone a GP, dentist or optician:
We are working hard to balance the health needs of patients against the risk of coronavirus transmission. To help keep everyone safe this is what you need to know:
- All first contact with a GP, optician or dentist must be by phone or online. Please do not turn up at the practice without an appointment.
- When you first get in contact to make an appointment, you need to tell the staff if you, or someone that you live with, are displaying any coronavirus symptoms. This is the same whether you have had a test or not.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
The most common symptoms are new:
- continuous cough
- fever/high temperature (37.8C or greater)
- loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste (anosmia)
A new continuous cough is where you:
- have a new cough that’s lasted for an hour
- have had 3 or more episodes of coughing in 24 hours
- are coughing more than usual
A high temperature is feeling hot to the touch on your chest or back (you don’t need to measure your temperature). You may feel warm, cold or shivery.
When you phone, the service will work with you to decide the best way of helping with your problem. This might be by phone, by video, or by making an appointment to see you in person.
Please make sure that you read any information given before your appointment. This will prepare you for what will happen and how it will look.
Thank you for supporting us to reduce the risk of infection and keep people safe in our communities.
Role of the receptionist
Practice Receptionists, patient advisors and care co-ordinators all have an important role in supporting you to access the care you need.
The information you give to this team helps the GP, dentist, optometrist or other healthcare professionals to plan their workload for the day. This means patients in the greatest need are dealt with first.
In many practices, this will mean a health professional may need to phone you back for a fuller discussion about your condition.
Reception teams do not make clinical decisions, but they have had training to help patients get to the most appropriate service.
Reception teams are also trained to guide patients through how services are being delivered in their practice. This might now include telephone consultations, Near Me consultations or online consultations (only available in some practices).
Our reception teams are here to help, please treat them with courtesy.
When attending any healthcare setting
You should not attend in person if you, or someone that you live with, have any coronavirus symptoms.
If you do have coronavirus symptoms, you should only attend in person if you have been told to do so by a healthcare professional.
You must wear a face covering, unless you are exempt.
Please observe 2 metre physical distancing from others. In pharmacies and optometry practices (opticians) limited numbers of people may be allowed in at any one time, so you may need to wait outside.
GPs, dentists and optometrists are allowing fewer people in waiting rooms. Do not arrive too early for your appointment. One way systems will be in place where required to avoid congestion.
Hand sanitiser will be available for you to use and staff will be wearing appropriate PPE.
The NHS is open and ready to help you and your family this winter, so please treat NHS staff with respect. They are doing their best to deliver the care you need.
Telephone and video consultations
To avoid the risk of spreading coronavirus, many GP practice appointments are now carried out over the phone or through NHS Near Me - a secure and easy way to video call a health professional using your computer, tablet or mobile.
If you cannot attend a pharmacy in person, but they need to see you, you may also be able to use NHS Near Me. Check with your community pharmacist if this service is available to you.
Telephone and Near Me is not suitable for everything and everyone and there may be a need to see a member of the team in person, for a physical examination or if tests need to be carried out. The health team will discuss with you to help you decide which is the best option for you.
If you are unable to use these technologies, please let them know.
We appreciate how difficult it may be to adapt to these new ways of communication and we are here to help if you have any issues.
NHS Pharmacy First Scotland
If you have a minor illness, a pharmacy is the first place you should go for advice.
What is a minor illness?
Your pharmacist can advise you about conditions such as:
- Athlete's foot
- Blocked or runny nose
- Cystitis (in women)
- Haemorrhoids (piles)
- Hay fever
- Mouth ulcers
- Period pain
- Sore throat
- Urinary tract infections (UTI's)
You can still attend the pharmacy in person. You may be asked to wait outside for a little while to comply with physical distancing.
Your local pharmacy can help if you run out of a repeat prescription and offer advice on minor illnesses like colds, cold sores, sore throats, diarrhoea or constipation, indigestion, and aches and pains.
They can also help with common conditions like urinary tract infections (UTIs) and impetigo.
If you have any oral pain or find something in your mouth that you are unsure about you should contact your dentist.
To book an appointment, you should phone your dental practice. The team will give you advice about the options available and guide you to make sure you get the right treatment.
Priority is being given to people with urgent dental problems such as those with toothache. It’s also possible you may be referred to your local urgent dental care centre.
Due to current restrictions, appointments may take longer than normal. Be patient and respect all dental staff, they are doing their job under the most difficult of circumstances.
All optometry practices (opticians) are now open and providing all aspects of eye care services, which include emergency and essential eye care and routine eye examinations.
You should always contact an optometry practice in the first instance if you have any eye problems such as:
- red and/or sticky eye
- pain in or around your eye
- sudden loss of vision
- blurred or reduced vision
- flashes and floaters
The majority of eye conditions can be managed by your optometrist, who is a highly skilled clinician.
Free NHS eye examinations are available in Scotland to all UK residents. It’s important that you have your eyes regularly examined, even if you’re not worried about your vision. This helps detect eye problems and signs of other significant health conditions (such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and, in rare cases, brain tumours) before they become more serious. If necessary your optometrist can refer you for any further help you need.
All initial contact with an optometry practice must be made by telephone or e-mail. Please do not turn up at the practice without an appointment.
If you’re unable to travel unaccompanied, because of a physical or mental illness or disability, you can arrange to have a home visit. Contact an optometry practice to get help in arranging this.
GP practices are open and available for your health and wellbeing needs.
Do not turn up at your practice without an appointment. Phone first or follow the advice on their website.
Practice staff will ask you for some general information to help you to see or speak to the most appropriate person in the practice. This may not always be with a doctor, but may be another member of the health care team. pharmacists, mental health nurses, physiotherapists, general practice nurses, or advanced nurse practitioners may be available to help.
Before you get in touch, consider whether you can manage your condition safely yourself by getting advice from our self-help guides or by speaking with your local pharmacist.
You are not alone, we are here to help.
Services are available that provide free and confidential emotional support. We’re here to help with stress, anxiety, depression and a wide range of other mental health matters too. This includes issues resulting from the pandemic.
Mental health self-help guidesUse our mental health self-help guides.
We can support people who are feeling overwhelmed and in need of immediate response as well as offering short term, individual support by telephone.
If you're feeling overwhelmed or need support you can call NHS 24 on 111, 24 hours a day and select the mental health option from the telephone prompts.
You can also contact Breathing Space on 0800 83 85 87. They are open weekdays Monday to Thursday, 6.00pm to 2,00am and weekends, Friday from 6.00pm to Monday until 6.00am.
The NHS 24 111 service provides urgent health advice when your GP practice or dentist is closed.
Different ways to access NHS 24 on 111
If English isn’t your first or preferred language, you can use the free interpretation service Language Line.
If you use British Sign Language (BSL), you can use the free BSL interpreting video relay service contactSCOTLAND-BSL.
If you use a textphone you can contact NHS 24 on 18001 111 or, you can contact NHS 24 with the Relay UK app.