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The waiting game

Preparing for coronavirus is more important than gimmick policies

Editor’s blog

I’m no microbiologist, and I’m the least qualified person to discuss the effect of the coronavirus. But I can discuss preparations.

In fairness to the health authorities, there is only so much you can do in preparation. And, according to most, it seems the preparations so far are sensible. Yes, there are some concerning issues but this is almost inevitable.

However, one gripe is around NHS England’s attitude to online bookings. This system – with its lack of triage - does present problems for practices in treating such an infectious disease. The latest guidance says that ‘patients booking in by telephone or online who meet the case definition should be directed to NHS 111’. But this is useless for practices that don’t have the capacity to check the symptoms of all patients booking online.

When we're supposed to be pulling together, this seems like a failure to support GP practices

It seems sensible to implement a blanket policy to allow practices to switch it off while we are in preparation stage – but NHS England has explicitly ruled this out.

The failure of the Government to implement a blanket policy speaks to a wider picture. Like a dog with a new toy, ministers will not let their gimmicky schemes go lightly.

But when we are all supposed to be pulling together, this seems like a failure to support GP practices.

Jaimie Kaffash is editor of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at

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Readers' comments (8)

  • Hi Jaimie, whats more worrying is the lack of PPE provision for general practice. Are GP practices covered insurance wise if staff members become ill through their workplace?

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  • Jaimie you have a great story here.... Public and NHS staff alike at risk due to failure to provide PPE....... what is the legal perspective on running a GP service without PPE?

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  • are wasting your time...clearly the editor does not want to talk to the national press otherwise he would have done might as well be asking The Daily Mail to publish it...the issue is about PPE not just on-line bookings...

    I am amazed how many people cannot seem to see the dangerous nature of this issue and the urgency in putting it in the public arena.

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  • Hi LMS, unfortunately I can't yet influence the Daily Mail to that extent, but I am working on it. But just for your interest, we have written this:


  • @LMS
    The national press with a couple of exceptions is ‘owned’ by the Government’s mates.
    And even the BBC is supine now it has been warned that its funding will be removed if it doesn’t do our Dear Leader’s bidding ( or perhaps that should read Dominic Cummings)

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  • Hi Last Man standing!
    Our hotel booked for Easter has now closed down due to Corona virus (The W in Abu Dhabi) so its just become personal :-)
    Swine flu came and went.... this ones gonna hurt a lot more! As a planet we will struggle to keep a lid on this one.... I think the last straw and camels back might be coming here..... GPs have had a torrid time of it recently and who is going to sacrifice themselves if the mortality rate of this thing creeps upwards? 2% mortality is pretty impressive.......who fancies playing russian roulette even with PPE...... who fancies playing it without?

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  • GPs need to stop complaining and adopt a ‘can do attitude’.

    I’ve got some old decorating overalls. They’ve got paint on them but with some swimming goggles and a dust mask...

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  • Edoardo Cervoni

    The Naked Soldier

    Nobody has ever thought that a simple mask can eliminate the risk of a viral infection.
    At all.
    But, not even any soldier has ever thought that a camouflage uniform can save him from a bullet.
    Nothing is new about Coronavirus, mentioned in a JAMA podcast as early as October 7th 2019, speaking of protective medical equipment. Times were not suspicious.
    However, even a simple mask, in a patient who coughs in a crowded waiting room, or at the counter, would not be a bad idea. At least, this could reduce the potential contamination of surfaces and people.
    There would also be indirect effects, perhaps unexpected, such as keeping an eye on distances, without the need for written reminders, or ensuring personal hygiene, particularly in places generally frequented by the most fragile.
    As for the doctor - speaking personally, it is certainly not the fear of contracting an infection that stops me from going to work - protective equipment should be available by default, such as time to wash and clean surfaces, where necessary , between patient and patient. Not so much for myself, but as for the people I do my best to take care of.
    At the moment, we are a bit like naked soldiers sent to the front to fight an invisible enemy.
    All this is true regardless of the severity of the Coronavirus infection, on which it is still difficult to pronounce in absolute terms.

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