All posts by Robert McLaren

Phone Lines Working 01/09/2022

We are pleased to tell you we can now take calls relatively normally.  For the next 2 weeks most outgoing calls may appear from “number withheld” because staff will be using their own devices.  We are not easily able to transfer calls internally.  For routine issues you may find it easier to use PATCH’s via our website but appreciate that lots of people find this difficult.

Why are we having problems?

BT Openreach disconnected us by mistake last Friday and due to Industrial Action have said they can not repair their mistake until the 14th September.  We have recurrently reminded of them that we are a GP practice looking after over 10,000 patients but have been told this is the best they can do.

What are we doing?

We were due to move phone provider later this month to a full cloud based phone system.  We have accelerated this plan so that we can receive multiple calls but have had to this ahead of proper training and without all the equipment installed.  Calls are now coming through computers.  We would be grateful for your patience and understanding whilst we make this rather painful transition.  Please be reassured looking after you remains our first priority.  We should have our new phone system with new functionality and everyone trained by the last week of September – we can’t move faster than BT take to repair their mistake.

Thank you, on behalf of all the team at Park Medical Centre.

Dr Robert McLaren

****Phone Lines Down 30/08/2022 31/08/2022****

01/09/2022 UPDATE: We are back to receiving alls normally but see separate news item for full details

We are very sorry that our phones are not working.  The BT Openreach engineer installing our new system for Surgery Connect on Friday broke our existing system.   They have failed to repair it still and are on strike.  We are chasing them.  We are working with our existing phone provider to redirect all incoming calls to a single mobile (through our usual number) – this will be manned constantly.

To get help you have the following options:

  1. If you can please log your request for help through PATCH’s – please provide plenty of detail to the 4 questions it asks as this will allow us to help you sooner.
  2. We should have a single phone line working by 10.30am 30/08/2022 – if you can’t use PATCH’s please call but be prepared for a long wait.
  3. Please come to the surgery in person and our receptionists will book you an appropriate appointment.
  4. For medication repeats/issues please email the prescription email address:

Apologies again for the inconvenience and stress this is causing everyone.  Thank you for your patience.

Dr Robert McLaren, on behalf of all the team at Park Medical Centre

Digital Consultation and Telephone Improvements

In response to feedback from our patients and to improve the service we provide we’re pleased to announce changes to to our digital platform this month and out telephone service in September


eConsultations moving to PATCH’s


Many of you will be familiar with digital consultations that we’ve been offering for the last 2 years for routine issues.  We are going to trial a new platform for this.


  • From the 8th August we will be trialling a new digital consultation platform PATCH’s instead of eConsult.
  • It will require users to create an account but this means you only have to enter your details once and ensures we can verify who we are consulting with.
  • It typically only asks 5 “open” questions but for it to work we need people to provide a good level of detail in their responses.
  • It also offers a translation service for our non English speaking patients.
  • When we can’t offer the service it will tell you when it is next available


Why offer Digital Consultations and Why are we trying a new Platform?

2 years ago we were one of the first local practices to offer digital consultations via eConsult.  We now receive 40 to 50 requests a day although we can’t limit the number and occasionally get far more.  One of our administrators and GPs deals with these every day.  Whilst we know many don’t like it we have found when we surveyed patients it is consistently popular with some patients.  In our last survey, responded to by 216 patients it was second only to contact by telephone

Survey Image

We do appreciate online surveys will bias those who are likely like online access but they have consistently showed it is appreciated by a significant number.

Subjective feedback in surveys and from conversations also consistently report that people do no like the multiple questions eConsult asks and that it will often not allow people to progress their request due to an answer they have given.  We have increasingly seen people not or misanswer questions to get through the system.  This is frustrating for users and often us when we are unable to resolve issues quickly.  As a practice we have also sometimes struggled with the unlimited requests and have on occasions had to turn the platform off.

We have looked at other digital options and have decided to try PATCH’s.  This works by asking 5 questions and then uses artificial intelligence to prompt users to answer further questions – please answer these.  The number of questions is vastly less than eConsult.  For us to respond effectively it will be critical for user’s to give us details responses.  It also won’t stop submissions even if it appears that someone should seek more urgent health care (but will prompt them to).  Early trials have shown the artificial intelligence to be fairly limited but the programme uses machine learning and this should improve in real time.

The eConsult platform does not allow us to limit the requests which means we turn it off over the weekends and bank holidays when we appreciate can be good times for users to submit requests.  PATCH’s allows us to limit the requests which means we can more safely respond to requests and so we can offer all of the time (initially we won’t on Saturday) and when we’ve received the limit it will advise when the service is next available.

For further detail on how to use see the PATCH’s Guide


New Telephone Service in September


At some point in September we will move to a new Telephone provider.  We have struggled with the reliability of our current provider for some time and apologise for the stress this has caused – it has taken a lot of our time managing it.  We have done a lot of research and are excited to move to a new provider Surgery Connect

We are confident this service is reliable and offers us lots of new functionality to be more efficient and navigate you to the help more efficiently.  Critically it also offers callers a call back queuing system so you can get off the phone and the system will call you back in the order that you have called – we encourage you to use it when me move.

Park Medical Centre – Open to see you…

Over the last 8 months we’ve all had to change the way we do things.  We want to assure you that whilst we have changed the way we do things at Park Medical Centre to ensure we keep you and each other safe we have remained open throughout the Pandemic and have tried to ensure that whilst it is less likely we might see you in person it is easier than ever to get hold of us and communicate with us at any time.

We are Covid Safe | News and Events | The Old Fire Station

You can get hold of us this in the following ways:


1.) Via eConsult

eConsult - Access GP services online in Devon - YouTube

If you’re reading this you’re likely to have had to get rid of that pesky blue window titled eConsult.  It’s one of the many changes we’ve implemented to help us more effectively since COVID arose.  See our first COVID update for details.  You can use this not only to consult about a new problem but also administrative issues like asking for details on referrals and sick notes.   An automated survey of 30 people who used it last week showed 77% would recommend eConsult service to family and friends.  From our perspective please submit relevant photos if asked and please try and ensure they are taken in good lighting and are in focus.  For skin lesions it is useful to have a ruler or coin in the picture so we get a sense of scale.


2.) Via Telephone

Telephone Systems | Small Business Telephone Systems Manchester

Reception will take your details and arrange the doctor or pharmacist to call you back.  We are typically receiving 300 calls a day so if you can please use eConsult.  If you call in the morning this will almost always be the same day.  Please ensure you keep your phone with and charged up we spend a lot of time calling unanswered phones!  The receptionists will ask for brief details.  This enables the GPs calling to spot patients who we may want to bring in and arrange accordingly.  We will arrange to see people the same or on subsequent days after calling.

From an eConsult or a Telephone consultation we may either manage it that way or offer you a video or face to face consultation.


3.) Booked Face to Face Appointment

UK sued for giving company with 16 employees $135 million PPE contract - Business Insider

For certain things like wound care/vaccinations/smears there is no value in you being called first so you will be offered a face to face appointment via reception.  We ask you wear a mask at all times you’re in the Medical Centre.  Clinicians will see you in PPE and clean down the rooms between patients.  Obviously please only attend if you do not have to isolate/have a cough/fever or loss of taste or smell.

Thanks for your support and working with us to help provide you the best service we can.

Dr Robert McLaren

on behalf of the whole team at Park Medical Centre

eConsult and COVID

If you’re reading this you’re likely to have had to get rid of that pesky blue window titled eConsult.  It’s one of the many changes we’ve implemented to help us more effectively since COVID arose.  See last update for details.  It was in fact always planned but the rationale for it is stronger than ever.

What is eConsult?


Pros and Cons: Why do it?

The positives are that it enables you to submit a request for help/advice 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and will be asked the vast majority of questions a doctor would ask.  We get this information sent electronically within minutes after you submit.  The questions are thorough and cover areas we sometimes hurry over when under pressure.  We are still learning to navigate this information but are rapidly finding we can quickly determine the next steps and contact you by text/telephone or video to take things further.  We will rarely bring you to the surgery before theses steps due to COVID but at some point would obviously consider this an automatic outcome as well.  Because of the detail in the requests we are able to respond correctly first time and when needed ensure you see the right person first time.  We are currently responding to these the same working day for submissions before midday.  We plan to respond within 2 hours.  To do this we need to increase the proportion of requests we get. National evidence suggests about 70% of requests can come like this and because of the efficiencies significantly increase the capacity in a practice so we have more time with the people who need it and fare less wasted journeys by people coming to see us who we can support at home/work.  As a consequence we will be asking you with increasing vigor to make your requests for appointments/support via eConsult.

We appreciate this is a big change for many (including us), takes some time for people to fill in the forms and the stress of navigating yet another website.  Our commitment to you in making this change is that we will be more responsive and effective in meeting your needs and our reception will have more time to offer you help and less time responding to your requests with a “no, we’re fully booked” – it makes me feel sick just writing those words as a GP and a patient!

“It’s not the same” /”I want to see someone in person”

We feel the same!  Right now face to face care is obviously only appropriate when we can be sure the risks to you and us of COVID are mitigated.  We’ve found video consulting great but the whole clinical team has commented at some point how great it can be to see our patients face to face and the added value this can bring.  We will continue to do this but right now we will only do this when there is a clear medical indication to do so.

Your practice… Your service

When you use eConsult you get offered the chance to feedback on it.  So far the feedback has been limited (approx 10/<5% users) but has been universally positive.  Please provide more so we can make things better.  In the next month or so we will send our a survey to see how we can improve things further.

Thanks for your support and working with us to help provide you the best service we can.

Dr Robert McLaren

on behalf of the whole team at Park Medical Centre

Park Medical Centre response to COVID

Thank YouThanks to everyone for being so patient and understanding at this extremely difficult time.The team at Park really appreciate the community spirit and support from everyone we look after and work with.We want to especially offer our condolences and support to anyone who has been affected by COVID19.We were initially working with quite a reduced team but we’re pleased to tell you we’re back to nearly full strength.Over the last month or so we have had to change our entire approach to providing General Practice but we want to reassure you we are all still here and working hard to help keep our community well.We expect and hope many of these changes will have a lasting positive impact even when life begins to get back to a new normal.We’re still here to support you – here are all the changes we’ve made:We our trying to help our patients remotely wherever it’s safe and effective to do so.We’ve made 3 major changes to the way we provide care at Park Medical:

  • eConsult: This is a web based electronic consultation tool that allows you, our registered patients, to request advice 24 hours a day from us/in your own time.  It allows you to send us attachments and photos.  We will contact you the same day or the following working day.  We would like everyone, who can, to use this as the first point of contact as it helps us ensure that when we do contact you we have all the information we need to help you as fast as possible.  It will no longer be possible to email the practice for advice or GP input.  Please use the eConsult tool instead.  See for details or our website to use it  If you are unable to use this tool you can call reception who should be able to help you with it.

  • Telephone & Video Consulting: If we need to contact you to resolve your issue and need to see you but not physically examine you we can do this providing you have a smartphone.  The same software also allows us to send you documents including referral letters and medical certificates.

  • Need to be seen? Clean Rooms and COVID Hubs: If we do need to see you we have arranged our day and the building so that we minimise the risk of anyone contracting COVID19. Reception are only allowing people into the building through the front door we have already screened on the phone and anyone who does come is kept waiting for as short a period as possible.
    1. Anyone who is at high risk from contracting COVID19 will only be seen if critical and then at the beginning of the day in one of our “super clean rooms”.
    2. After speaking to you if we think you might have COVID19 and need further information we have arranged a number of options:
      1. We can send someone out to see you at home to measure your oxygen saturations
      2. We might ask you to go to Brook Green Medical Centre where we have fellow Partners who we will refer you to assess you for COVID19.
      3. If unlikely to be COVID19 we might ask you to come to the surgery in the afternoon and either assess you in your car or come to one of our “amber rooms” via our back entrance – we will give you details of how this works if we use this.
      4. We can send out a specially equipped home visiting GP Team to assess you.

Next StepsOver the coming weeks we will be making increasing contact with people with long term conditions to provide ongoing support.As most will probably know hospitals are providing minimal outpatient activity now and for the immediate future (so we are unable to make any referrals except for very urgent cases or high likelihood of cancer) but we have good contact with the hospital teams and can seek their advice and input when needed.We are getting in touch with all our Shielded Patients to make sure they know what to do, how and where to get support.The Real Heroes

We have provided a huge amount of support to Chiswick Nursing Centre during the Pandemic.We have had invaluable support from the the Imperial Care of the Elderly Team notably Matron Rawlda and Dr Pandora Wright.Most care homes have had a very difficult time during this period and we particularly want to recognise the invaluable work the carers provide in homes and to the wider community.Please see the video below and a recent related news story.We look forward to seeing you in person soon but for now stay at home, keep washing your hands and if you do need help get in touch.Dr Robert McLarenOn behalf of all the team at Park Medical Centre

Hammersmith & Fulham Partnership

On the 1st April 2018 Park Medical Centre became part of Hammersmith & Fulham Partnership.  This is a partnership that includes The Bush Doctors, Brook Green Medical Centre,  North End Medical Centre and Richford Gate Medical Centre .

The partners on all sites have decided to work together so that we can professionalise our approach to the delivery of care.  We want to reassure you that this will not mean a change to the Reception and Clinical Team on each site; we know that personal ongoing relationships between clinicians and patients are critical to the delivery of good care.

We have done this because it puts us in a better position to expand the services we offer you and make us more resilient to manage the challenges the NHS faces.