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Dear Ponteland Medical Group Patients,

I am keen to say “thank you” to our patient population for working with us during this very difficult time.  We had to change our offer to you dramatically in order to keep you and your families as safe as possible.  We managed to continue to see and speak to patients with an urgent need throughout the initial peak of the Covid-19 crisis.  We did this because the vast majority of patients were happy to see requests for routine help postponed.  We appreciate your patience.

We have for some weeks been considering how we plan for the next weeks and months.  It is important to note that our offer to you will remain different for the foreseeable future.  NHS England continues to mandate that all face-to-face appointments will be preceded by a consultation with a healthcare professional.  We agree with this position which aims to reduce your risk of Covid-19, particularly as we move into the autumn and winter when a potential second wave is possible.  Our Practice Nurses, Nurse Practitioners and GPs will be consulting on the phone much more than in the past.  We will also continue to use video consulting via accuRx with which some of you will now be familiar.  The online form based eConsult platform will also be used.  Rest assured that we are sensitive to the fact that not all modalities of consultation suit every person and every condition.  We have safe procedures for seeing patients face-to-face, but we hope you understand why we must reduce such consulting to a minimum.

We are trying to make accessing contact with us as simple as possible.  To that end, please note the following.

Our systems will evolve over the coming months and we do appreciate that not knowing how your request for our collective expertise will be dealt with can cause anxiety.  However, we will continue to be here for you whatever happens and will always endeavour to deliver safe, high quality care whilst prioritising those with the greatest need. 

Yours faithfully,

Dr Matt Thomas


Kooth service commissioned to provide free, safe, online mental health support to young people across Northumberland

Children and young people aged between 11-25 years in Northumberland can now access free, anonymous and safe support from Kooth for their mental health and wellbeing whenever they need to. Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has commissioned the service, which is accredited by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and requires no waiting lists, referrals, thresholds or waiting lists.

Kooth allows young people across the area to access a range of tools, resources and activities that offer support to those struggling with mental health. These include online discussion boards, reading and contributing to self-help articles, daily goal trackers and an online journal. The service has recently launched an online activity hub which provides activities that young people can do at home to help them manage mental health or wellbeing challenges. Online counselling is also available on Kooth, with qualified counsellors available through an online chat service. Sessions with counsellors can be booked in advance or accessed sooner through a drop in service between 12pm to 10pm on weekdays and 6pm to 10pm on weekends.

Northumberland CCG has commissioned Kooth as part of its ongoing strategy to support young people with their mental health in the area. The commissioning group will be working with local communities to raise awareness of the new service.

Kate O’brien, senior head of commissioning for child health, learning disabilities and mental health at the CCG said: “We’re so excited to be commissioning Kooth as part of our services in Northumberland. We know how important it is to have mental health support in place for young people to help them at an early stage before problems escalate.

“The recent pandemic has further accelerated the need for more services and given the rural landscape of Northumberland, Kooth really fits in with the needs of our young people – especially those who are shielding who may be feeling isolated at home. It really gives them an outlet to share their thoughts and experiences with those in similar situations.”

Dr Lynne Green, XenZone’s chief clinical officer, added, “We’re thrilled to see that Northumberland CCG has commissioned the service at a time when young people in rural parts of the country may be feeling especially vulnerable when it comes to their mental health. We hope they access the peer to peer support opportunities available within Kooth to share their experiences with others if they need to. Our friendly counsellors will be available for an online chat or to message at any time if a young person needs to talk.

Our recent data has shown young people in the North East are especially struggling with sleep, sadness and loneliness during the pandemic. Our clinical content team are working hard to ensure there are plenty of articles and discussions within the service that can support young people in managing these issues.”

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