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The waiting game

Returning retired GPs can work for NHS 111, says top NHS England GP

Retired GPs who return to work to help deal with the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak could work in NHS 111 to protect them from the disease, NHS England has said.

NHS England medical director for primary care Dr Nikki Kanani said 'that is the plan', when asked whether those GPs who are in the 'vulnerable' cohort may have their expertise utilised in call centres rather than in patient-facing roles.

She was responding to a tweet from Kent GP Dr Stephanie deGiorgio.

At the same time, the NHS England advice to retired doctors says: 'There are many opportunities for non-face to face roles, such as working with the Covid-19 Response Service (CRS) or NHS 111. In addition, local out-of-hours providers, GP surgeries and PCNs have non-face to face roles which urgently require support.'

It comes as the Government has said anyone over the age of 70 must only venture out when absolutely necessary over the next three months.

The advice also applies to people with asthma, diabetes, severe obesity, heart disease, neurological conditions, liver and kidney disease and people living with HIV.

A further cohort of particularly vulnerable patients have received a message from NHS England asking them to not leave the house at all, and to keep three steps apart even from members of their own household.

The news comes as a Watford GP has called on GPs to volunteer their spare time to help NHS 111 with an unprecedented high demand of calls.

Dr Simon Hodes sent the appeal as a WhatsApp message yesterday to GP groups across the country.

The message said: ‘We urgently need to increase capacity in 111 and would like you to volunteer to help - whatever time you can give is better than none...

‘At the moment 111 is swamped. By reducing the pressure on 111, GPs can help "flatten the peak" and reduce pressures on secondary care. From the very top, 111 are asking for the help of GPs right now.'

Dr Hodes, who says NHS England has backed his plans, hopes to build a list of willing GP volunteers who could take the pressure off NHS 111 by taking the calls from their own patients.

NHS 111 would divert calls, where possible, directly to a patient's own GP or a GP within their practice, who would take then take the call in their free time, he said.

The GP would be able to work directly with the patients' notes and set up any prescription or follow up care needed, without 111 needing to do anything further.

Dr Hodes, who said 200 GPs had already expressed interest, said: 'At home over the weekend I felt guilty watching the hospital doctors working 24/7 in in such stressful conditions and wondered what I could do myself to help from the GP side.

'This is a war - the NHS is the army - and ultimately, I will do everything I can to help defend and protect our country. Think that helping now will be a matter of life and death.'

GPs can express their interest and will be added to a database of volunteers to be called on once the scheme is running. The list will be handed to the NHS to implement the next stage.

Pulse has approached NHS England for comment.

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Readers' comments (15)

  • "The NHS is the army"---an army with neither the bullets (anti-virals/vaccine) nor the armor (PPEs). Just call us cannon fodder.

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  • Can the retired GP`s also take calls at home rather than in one of those packed 111 call centres you see on TV which appear to have hundreds of staff in also with paramedics inside which must be a breeding ground for the virus.
    Also would be easy for GP`s to pluck calls off a list and deal with them over the internet from home, could probably put in more hours that way too. .. but of course the beaurocrats would say "not secure enough" or some such.

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  • WhystayaGP: Couldn't agree more. My LTCs preclude my going into a call centre and using the manky headsets and filthy workstations that I remember only too well, but happy to do anything from home on an IT platform.

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  • How? Simple question, no answer as far as I can see. I’m not retired - but a licensed doctor who was all ready for her now deferred revalidation in a couple of months. I usually locum. Have had work cancelled, and there don’t seem to be any adverts or requests for work locally. I have a phone line, internet connection - and skills. But where is the secure remote access to a clinical system that would be needed for me to work for 111? Where is the system for recruitment and induction?

    And, btw, I don’t think there should be any question of “volunteering” here. The NHS is meant to be getting “whatever it needs”, and this must include those who are continuing to deliver the non-covid parts of the service with essentially no resources for back up.

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  • To Deborah White - all GP computers are supplied by NHSE. A lot of practices have NHSE laptops which can function securely from anywhere and do almost all tasks [ maybe not Docman]. It just needs a bit of organisation to identify those who can do ‘ routine’ GP work and then to distribute them. It would them be possible to log into a number of , say, EMIS practices if the laptop has EMIS installed and make a big contribution to struggling practices

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  • I’m retired with some health problems but happy to work remotely. That means from my pristine abode, not a grubby contact centre/virus distribution unit. Give me the tools and I can do the job.

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  • Its already being doneby many providers. Babylon/GP at Hand never see you face to face, you interview , train and work remotely, they even appraise you remotely and as they record every consultation you do thats quite useful! They just send a link,and you download SystmOne to your PC (also Slack and the Babylon system), do the on line training... and they book the appointments for you. They also send a background by post so you can unroll it behind you so the patients dont see your home and what books you read! You can prescribe, refer and send for tests all remotely. CQC has apporved the patients doing their own BPs,weights,blood sugars, sats etc remotely. As a big provider, originally set up with public funds (I think!) I hope NHSE have Babylon all set up to join up the vulnerable work force who can't wait to get started!

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  • Dragon. Wow that sounds perfect .. Too good to be true so am sure nhs will not so it ! Hope to be proved wrong ! ( even better if will work with emis too).

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  • The Government has been known to give the British Army defective ammunition and guns in the past so I take some comfort in knowing we are not the only ones who are sent to war unarmed.

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  • Where's Optimus?

    So instead of NHS 111 saying go see your gp they will just pass the call to the retired gps
    Suspect they will soon be re-re-tired

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