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GPs go forth

Coronavirus media reports will increase demand for GPs, warns RCGP

Widespread media attention of the coronavirus outbreak in China is likely to create more demand for GP appointments in the UK due to symptomatic patients suspecting they have become infected, leading primary care experts have suggested.

In an article co-authored by RCGP president Professor Amanda Howe, the group of experts warned the rapidly developing situation could cause increased anxiety among members of the public.

The group also pointed out that media and public interest in the new form of coronavirus, which has been traced back to Wuhan in China, and the extent of international travel means, 'confirmed cases in the UK may yet be seen'.

Writing in the BJGP Open, the authors pointed out that Public Health England has advised any person coughing, feeling short of breath, or experiencing fever to seek medical attention if they have recently travelled to Wuhan.

To date official figures suggest more than 4,500 cases of the virus, causing 130 deaths. It has spread to 16 countries and UK officials have tested more than 30 people for ‘2019-nCoV’ but all have come back negative.

However, the experts said the number of suspected cases is expected to rise.

They added: ‘It is reasonable to expect that the widespread attention will impact on the demand for appointments in GP practices in coming weeks, as well as anxiety for members of the public'.

The experts pointed to interim guidance from Public Health England (PHE) issued last week, which advises GPs to isolate any unwell patient with relevant travel history who turns up at the practice.

‘As the "front door" of the health system, primary care professionals should be involved in planning and action for health emergency risk management,’ they said.

Last week, extra airport screening measures were put in place at Heathrow, but British Airways has now suspended all direct flights to and from mainland China.

The UK Government has also announced plans to fly 200 British citizens out of Wuhan.

Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the RCGP, said it is monitoring the situation but the current threat to the UK is considered low, and NHS England and PHE are assuring patients that there are robust arrangements in place.

He said: ‘Patients should not be alarmed as it is still more likely that anyone with flu-like symptoms will have the flu.

‘The most important thing is that any patient who thinks they may have symptoms should not try to attend a GP appointment or hospital emergency departments in person.'

He added: ‘We advise them to let the GP receptionist know if they have recently travelled to Wuhan, China before a decision is taken by the GP as to where the patient will be seen.’


Readers' comments (10)

  • David Banner

    Thank God we have lots of slack in the system, loads of free appointments, acres of spare time in the day, oceans of good will, effective treatments and a fired up reserve of GPs waiting to come off the bench to help mop up the extra work.
    Primary Care is more than ready to take on this challenge, no worries.

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  • It’s all free, so what’s the problem, just keep ‘em coming.

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  • Nice one David

    Totally accurate and concise.

    Suspect following triage will be: read paper, shit self, ring 111, contact GP, given sensible/appropriate advice, attend A/E, transfer to OOH, and repeat till admission and given pretty pointless anti-viral and repeat again!

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  • Flu-like epidemic will cause an increase in demand? Who could have known? Thank goodness we have these supremely wise experts to advise us ignorant peasants.

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  • we all know too much these days. Ignorance is bliss.

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  • Took Early Retirement

    It's The Apocalypse.

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  • considering the flu virus is more infectious and kills 650,000 people globally every year and we still see them in surgery with no protection apart from common sense and good hand washing- me thinks the world has gone a tiny bit over the top.

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  • @ d in vadar | Locum GP30 Jan 2020 1:23pm

    Well none of our lot got flu and died after the recent scare ‘the deadly Australian flu is coming’ (some guy called Dave up the M4 got a bit squiffy but that was it). But we had vaccinated all ours. Just awaiting the eminent release of the Corona Virus jag and we’ll start the rounds again.

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  • I kid you not, a patient attended today concerned that his flu like illness might be Coronavirus as he 'had a Chinese' yesterday evening. Redefines 'having a Chinese' if nothing else...

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  • Even better for me as they dump the rescued vectors of disease right on my Wirral doorstep. Where do I get my thermal detection technology like the airport's?

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