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Independents' Day

100 GP practices to take part in opportunistic testing for coronavirus

Public Health England (PHE) has announced that it will conduct ‘random’ tests in 100 GP practices to detect cases of coronavirus (Covid-19).

Patients presenting to participating practices and NHS hospitals with severe respiratory infections but who do not display Covid-19 symptoms will be tested as part of a new surveillance system.

PHE said this new strategy will enable it to identify early evidence of spread within England, if this occurs.

It said the programme of testing would include eight NHS hospitals and 'a network of around 100 primary care sites across England', in a bid to identify the virus both in patients who are severely ill and only mildly unwell. 

According to PHE there is 'no current evidence to show that the virus is circulating in the community in England' but the virus is no longer containted to China, with recent spread in South Korea, Italy and Iran.

PHE medical director Professor Yvonne Doyle said: 'We have taken a belt and braces approach throughout this outbreak. This new system is another important way we can help limit the impact of Covid-19 in the UK, as we continue to ensure we have the best possible intelligence to protect the public’s health.

'There is no change in risk for the public but taking this preparatory step now will enable us to better detect and contain the spread of the virus. The UK’s infection control procedures are world-leading, and the system we are announcing today further strengthens our response.'

Earlier this week, the World Health Organization (WHO) urged countries around the world to be ‘in a phase of preparedness’  for the coronavirus becoming a pandemic.

The NHS told Pulse it has made 'significant preparation' to handle the situation effectively should this happen.

An NHS England spokesperson said: 'The NHS prepares carefully for this type of incident, with specialised services and other teams in place across the country, and we are one of the first countries in the world to develop a test for the new virus.

'The quickest way to get help is for people to call NHS 111, with the feedback from guests and patients of the NHS so far overwhelmingly positive and showing that people are getting the support that they need, thanks to the significant preparation which has gone in and, most importantly, the world-class efforts of NHS staff.'

And Dr Peter Holden, emergency preparedness lead of the BMA's GP Committee, told Pulse that he believes the NHS is 'as prepapred as it can be'.

He said: 'The NHS has been preparing for infectious disease for a long time. It is difficult to define preparedness in the absence of knowing what the threat is... You don't know how quickly the tide will come in, how high it will go, how quickly it will recede and whether it will come back again.

'There are loads of contingency plans but all we can say is we need a car to get from A to B but we don't know if we need an estate car, a mini car or a mini bus.'

This comes as GPs raised a number of concerns about NHS prepapredness, including a lack of available protective equipment and claims that NHS 111 was signposting potential coronavirus cases to GP practice.

Readers' comments (18)

  • I KNEW IT....I FEEL LIKE A FRONT LINE INFANTRY DIVISION THAT ALWAYS GETS PICKED TO DO THE WORK NOBODY ELSE WANTS WITHOUT THE RESOURCES.

    NOT PROVIDING ANY PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT TO GPs IS IMMORAL AND DANGEROUS. WE COULD END UP SPREADING IT TO COUNTLESS VULNERABLE PATIENTS....

    WHAT WILL HAPPEN IS WEEKS/MONTHS DOWN THE LINE NHS ENGLAND WILL "ADMIT" THAT PERHAPS THEY SHOULD HAVE HELPED GPs MORE.....WITH HINDSIGHT....BULLSHIT

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  • What happened to their protection and cleaning? Will it be shut of someone tests positive?

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  • Cobblers

    new surveillance system = new money.

    No? AND no PPE?

    Do you own damn surveillance!

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  • Vinci Ho

    An NHS England spokesperson said: 'The NHS prepares carefully for this type of incident, with specialised services and other teams in place across the country, and we are one of the first countries in the world to develop a test for the new virus.

    'The quickest way to get help is for people to call NHS 111, with the feedback from guests and patients of the NHS so far overwhelmingly positive and showing that people are getting the support that they need, thanks to the significant preparation which has gone in and, most importantly, the world-class efforts of NHS staff.'


    Mmmmm
    I prefer something with a bit more humility , to be honest .
    And I suppose NHS111 is something to take a lot of credits ?

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  • NHSE Fustercluck

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  • Last man standing is absolutely right.
    We are just cannon fodder to throw at the problem.
    Without PPE we will all get sick and some of us will die if this thing goes person to person. Worse, we will take it home and a proportion of our kids will die.
    However small the numbers it is not acceptable. Once this thing is spreading person to person we cannot be considering it safe to see anyone with any viral or respiratory symptoms without PPE (I would argue that should probably be the case all the time, but thats for another day!) .
    There should be designated regional warehouses with primary care PPE ready to go and the moment the first person to person cases are identified we should ship to every practice.
    My Hospital consultant wife has been fitted for her mask and will be protected. Why not us??

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  • I have no idea why this made it to the BBC news already...the public who cannot even deal with a cold or flatus, will be queuing for it! And the treatment is...go home! Distasteful PHE...I have to currently make and print my own posters on the front line. Protect yourselves...the General is shooting it's own soldiers.

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  • Operation stable door.... more new cases outside China than inside it..... surely there is a health and safety issue here if we can't protect our healthcare workers? There are cases in Iran, Korea, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Italy ,Algeria, Austria, Croatia, Germany, Brazil, UK, Spain and Switzerland.... but its not a pandemic yet......if NHSe want people to self isolate I presume this must apply to staff too.... looks like the NHS is about to collapse when everyone phones in sick..... most flu seasons staff sniffle and get on with it.... this year will be different! Given the goodwill is gone people aren't going to put themselves in Harms way..... NHSe better get PPE to general practice or the practices will be closing faster than NHSe can call up to ask why.... as GP practices are employers, they should check with their indemnity for employers what is their position should a staff member become sick due to lack of PPE provision. Practices can't afford to get sued by employees- how many healthcare workers in primary care will get sick?. What happens if the principles dont close the practice once a case has been identified there? I think it is VERY clear that NHSe is NOT ready.

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  • Yep the others have said it. No PPE but do the tests.

    Probably about as fun as mine detecting by repeatedly stamping on the ground while edging forward!

    God I love the NHS

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  • stockpiling the tins, toilet roll, alcohol and candles as we speak - for the quarantine period. Shame i have no PPE but at least I like to be prepared.

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