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Independents' Day

PHE advises GPs to wear surgical masks for potential coronavirus exposure

GPs have been advised to wear face masks and other personal protective equipment if they are in contact with a patient with suspected coronavirus (Covid-19) in updated guidance from Public Health England (PHE).

Patients booking appointments by phone or online who have symptoms and relevant travel history should be directed to NHS 111.

But if contact with a patient suspected to have coronavirus is unavoidable GPs should take standard infection control precautions and wear in line gloves, apron and fluid resistant surgical mask, the recommendations warn.

Any exposure to the patient should be kept to a minimum and they should be isolated in a room with the door closed from where they should call NHS 111, the recommendations which were updated on the 25 February advise.

The recommendations also advise on environmental cleaning should a possible case present to a GP practice.

‘Once a possible case has been transferred from the primary care premises, the room where the patient was placed should not be used, the room door should remain shut, with windows opened and the air conditioning switched off, until it has been cleaned with detergent and disinfectant,’ PHE says.

It comes as GPs continue to raise concerns about a lack of available PPE to protect their practices from coronavirus.

BMA representatives have called on NHS England to supply PPE to GP surgeries after reports that equipment is in short supply.

PHE is ramping up its surveillance efforts announcing it will conduct ‘random’ tests at 100 GP practices to detect cases of Covid-19.

It follows the World Health Organization warning countries around the world to be in ‘a phase of preparedness’ for the coronavirus becoming a pandemic.

GPs have also been told to advise patients who have recently travelled from parts of Italy to self isolate, even if they do not have symptoms of the coronavirus (Covid-19), as part of an update to the PHE list of countries most affected by the virus.

The news comes as NHS England has denied the BMA's request for a national suspension of online booking of appointments due to the risk of patients attending without triage. However, a number of GP practices across the country have defied the national stance.

As of 25 February, a total of 6,795 people have been tested in the UK, of which 6,782 were confirmed negative and 13 positive. These figures now include the four cases from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.


Readers' comments (10)

  • I am going to put on my imaginary PPE and pretend I am protected whilst i continue to be coughed over by all and sundry as per normal, especially when they mention at the end of the consult they have recently travelled to italy or where ever and are they at risk? Because the most important thing they query, from a long list, is always at the end of a consult.

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  • Just a surgical mask for GPs, PPE3 masks for everyone else. Shows how much they value GPs. Cannon fodder.

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  • How come PHE are saying on national media that surgical masks are useless but then officially advising GPs to use them? Do they think we are stupid? Do they think the NHS will get along fine once 30% of us are on sick leave? Well prepared????

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  • If patients are supposed to be directed to 111, why would we get involved ?
    What happens when we run out of surgical masks, however useful or not they are,are we going to shut shop?
    Who'll be doing our daytime job over the next few weeks / months ? Especially, when we are all in self isolation ?

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  • Imbecilic in the extreme.

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  • I want the mask with the jokers smile on it please.

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  • doctordog.

    I’ve wanted to do this for years.

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  • We have 20,000 patients. There are 3 surgical masks across 2 sites. (Jumping on the bandwagon- why are we being asked to perform tests without protective equipment - bonkers)
    Presumably once we’ve been in contact with a suspected case - are we ourselves then quarantined for 2 weeks?
    Stupid question but what happens to the equipment we use - pulse oximetry, stethoscope etc. - surely they have to be incinerated/other suitably noxious detergent used?
    Echoing other sentiments - much more worried about my young children at home.

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  • Isn't now the perfect time to down tools on the basis of health and safety?

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