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The waiting game

Coronavirus advice issued to GPs as UK ramps up airport precautions

Public Health England has issued interim advice to GPs on dealing with potential cases of coronavirus in patients who have visited affected regions of China.

Official guidance tells GPs to leave the consultation room immediately if a patient in front of them is suspected to have the virus, and to shut the person inside to avoid others becoming infected.

It comes as the Government has announced precautionary screening measures, with health teams at Heathrow meeting direct flights from China's Wuhan, the city where the outbreak began.

A statement from the Department of Health and Social Care says the risk to the UK remains 'low' but is being kept under constant review. Leaflets and information are being made available across all UK airports, advising travellers from China on what do to if they feel unwell.

The new form of coronavirus, which sees patients present with acute respiratory symptoms, was first detected in December after a cluster of cases in Wuhan City in the Hubei Province of China.

There have now been 440 confirmed cases, according to Chinese authorities. 

But in a briefing to the media, Professor Neil Ferguson from Imperial College London said there had been an estimated 4,000 cases since the outbreak began.

Interim advice to GPs from Public Health England is to identify potential cases as soon as possible and prevent any transmission to other patients and staff.

If a GP consultation is already under way when a patient is suspected to have the virus because of their travel history or they have come into contact with someone who is infected, the GP or other healthcare professional should immediately leave the room and close the door with the patient inside.

Others should be told not to enter the room and any further clinical history should be done by phone.

Anyone suspected of having the virus during a phone consultation should not be invited in for a face-to-face assessment. In either scenario, local infectious disease specialists should be contacted for information on what to do next.

A test for the virus has already been developed in the UK, the DHSC said.

Dr Nick Phin, deputy director of PHE's national infection service, said: ‘This is a new and rapidly evolving situation where information on cases and the virus is being gathered and assessed daily.

‘Based on the available evidence, the current risk to the UK is considered low. We are working with the World Health Organisation and other international partners, have issued advice to the NHS and are keeping the situation under constant review.’

He added that anyone who developed respiratory symptoms within 14 days of visiting Wuhan, either in China, or on their return to the UK should seek medical attention.

‘They should phone ahead before attending any health services and mention their recent travel to the city.’


Readers' comments (16)

  • How long have these folks been coughing there gut up in the waiting room and all round the place before seeing the GP.By the time its got to us the horse as fled the stable a long long time ago . Mmm how many meetings and focus groups to come to this masterstroke of strategic thinking.Pardon me I've just wet my self laughing.

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  • Trying to envisage how this hostage situation would end. None of our consulting rooms are lockable, and if they were I’m not sure it would be legal to detain someone like this for two hours while you wait for an ambulance (assuming you have popped back in to calculate the NEWS score!).
    How about a little note given to everyone arriving from China: ‘if you are unwell, do not go and see your GP. Do not pitch up at A&E. Stay in your house and call NHS111’. Better still, suspend flights from affected area, much easier to contain then, and puts far fewer people at risk.

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  • Chinese gov must have been monitoring pulse comments section as seems they took up my suggestion

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  • all 12 consulting rooms now occupied.
    where shall we put the rest of the patients who are coughing???

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  • This could be a winner lads. Just hint that the surgery and you (especially you) are riddled with the virus - and look forward to a very quiet month or so.

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  • glad to see you have written it as a new form of coronovirus, unlike the main press. considering you advertise and tell patients not to attend with flu and norovirus symptoms and they still turn up vomiting over your waiting room floor - good luck with that one. I would suggest patients are not allowed into the building until they can prove first they are apyrexial, if have a fever phone call first with 111. would make my life much easier.

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  • Usual tosh...
    Whom am I supposed to call locally? Will they actually be available during extended hours. What test kit am I using ? What is the test called, will it be listed on our online template ? Where do I send it ? Who will be decontaminating my consulting room / surgery and who will see my patient whilst I am recovering ( or not ) myself ?
    So many questions ...

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  • I am sure that GPs are "best placed" again.
    Forcefully stopping someone from leaving can bring about charges of "deprivation of liberty", just like putting up side rails on a bed to stop the elderly falling. That leads to guess what, GMC, police etc. all blown out of proportion and exaggerated and twisted to undo the GP.
    My Australian friends are amazed, you get punished for helping in the UK.

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  • GP or other healthcare professional should immediately leave the room and close the door with the patient inside.

    Do you think I would get away with doing this for all my patients!

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  • Love it!! Yet more useful and practical advice form the ivory tower; how would we manage without them?

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