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GPs go forth

The questions that need answering

Editor’s blog

It’s not often I say this, but I feel for politicians and NHS officials right now in dealing with the coronavirus crisis. The decision as to whether to shut down the country, like is happening in Italy, is one I am glad I never have to take. It’s easy to say that a shutdown will stop the spread, so let’s move immediately.

But they have to take into account patient behaviour – will people get fatigue and therefore lessen its impact? And there are the economic factors, which will have huge ramifications for the health of the nation.

And I am fully aware that the research and the numbers of people affecting are changing on an hourly basis. It is hard to be a politician right now.

However, I can’t help but feel that they are a step behind when it comes to informing GPs. Guidance that came out yesterday muddies the waters. There are unanswered questions, and answering these have to be a priority:

  • Most importantly, what do GPs do about patients presenting with respiratory symptoms with no relevant travel history and no known contact with positive Covid-19 patients?
  • When are healthcare professionals going to be eligible for the same level of testing as, say, health ministers?
  • Should GPs be using PPE for every consultation?
  • Do practices have to undergo a decontamination process every time they have seen a patient with a cough that they have had to send to hospital?
  • What happens if practices haven’t got room for an ‘isolation space’?
  • Can practices stop online booking?
  • Should practices be aiming to fulfil their QOF requirements for the remainder of the year?

We have been asking these questions. And they need to be answered now.

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

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Readers' comments (7)

  • GP colleague has fever and dry cough, feels unwell but not ill enough to need admission. 111, PHE and microbiology have all said no to testing, yet CCG say they have to self isolate for 2 weeks. The GP workforce can not cope with all staff with resp symptoms self isolating for 2 weeks just in case they may have it. Having no doctors is just as risky as having sick doctors

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  • And what about GP's whose age puts them in the at risk category but who work on, only to find that if they get the virus and are seriously ill, the liklihood is that they will be denied access to ITU facilities based on their age. Really encouraging...

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  • Tantalus

    Those questions are spot on.
    We are also told to clinically judge and send to hospital where necessary but also not to examine !
    So how do we make a clinical assessment?
    The advice makes no sense.

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  • Just Your Average Joe

    The answer is simple from our chief medical officers advise.

    Anyone with cough/cold or fever self isolates and stays home with OTC self care - no need to see anyone as will eventually get better no matter how 'chesty' the cough.

    Unless acute respiratory distress symptoms - in which case hospital assessment warranted for those, as long as ITU beds available. Handful per hospital free at best.

    Rest of population stay at home and good luck - you'll mostly come out the other end approx 99% chance.

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  • So all the SOPs suggest that we can easily identify covid and non covid cases simply by symptoms. Non covid should be routine care. But routine care is seeing in a confined space (consulting room) with no PPE on - pt then then asymptomatically (or very mild symptoms) shed all over the room infecting the GP and then any subsequent patients?

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  • so for rest of public with or without symptoms they must stay 2m apart, or any high risk pts need to stay at home. but if you need to see your gp then all this goes out the window???

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  • Pulse oximetry is very useful and could be done by the patient if given instruction. The device would need swabbed with alcohol afterwards.

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