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Independents' Day

Deputy CMO admits absence of contact traced GPs will 'put pressure' on practices

GPs have been told it is especially important for them to isolate for 14 days if exposed to Covid-19 under the Government's new 'test and trace' programme, although England's deputy CMO admitted the absence of asymptomatic GPs and staff would 'put pressure' on practices.

However, further guidance on the system - which is intended to see anyone who has been in close proximity to a person who tests positive for Covid-19 traced and told to isolate even if asymptomatic - clarified that contacts when wearing PPE did not count.

The guidance from DHSC said that 'if someone who works in – or has recently visited – a health or social care setting... tests positive for coronavirus, their case will be escalated to local public health experts, who will liaise with the relevant setting to agree on the most appropriate action'.

It added: 'If they were wearing PPE at the time of the contact, this will not count as a contact.'

Speaking in a webinar for GPs yesterday evening, England's deputy medical officer Dr Jenny Harries stressed the importance of GPs isolating if exposed to Covid-19.

Dr Harries said: 'Everybody has to follow [test and trace] otherwise we will never get to the end of this - and in fact healthcare staff are even more important in some ways because of the contacts that they have - the types of contacts and the frequency and the setting in which they are operating.

'If one of your staff members is contacted by the trace system they absolutely must stay at home. Obviously they have access to testing themselves if they are the one that is symptomatic and their family needs to isolate with them, but it is absolutely critical that they do what the rest of the public do as well. I realise that's really difficult because it will put pressure on the operations in your surgeries.'

Dr Harries further said GPs should encourage patients to 'ensure they're tested and brought into the system'. 

And, speaking in the same webinar, NHS England's testing cell incident director Keziah Halliday added: 'The 14 day self-isolation for a contact - there is no way out of that. Even if you subsequently get a test and you test negative, then you still need to isolate for the full period that you are advised to by test and trace.'

But the BMA said preparations put into place by practices across the country should mitigate the effect.

A spokesperson said: 'Practices across the country have put processes in place to protect staff, including increased triage, greater use of remote consultations and introducing social distancing measures in surgeries for when patients do need to attend in person.

'It is therefore unlikely that staff will have prolonged, close contact with Covid-positive patients. In cases where staff have been within two metres of someone with the virus for longer than 15 minutes, they should follow guidance when contacted by a contact tracer – which will likely mean they will have to self-isolate.

'Where it is not possible for asymptomatic self-isolating staff to work remotely, or for the practice to operate in this manner, we would expect CCGs to support practices if this presents workforce or operational issues.'

Readers' comments (8)

  • I've stopped listening. Just do what you think is right. They've knowingly set you up to fail, or die.

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  • so if some one stands outside my open window for 15 minutes and is positive and pings my phone can I still self isolate for 2 weeks? if they are on the other side of the ailse of the supermarket but within 2 metres does that count as a contact? if i have had a week off for covid but not been tested can i take the 2 weeks off again? how often can i be pinged for 2 weeks isolation and if i get continually pinged can i stay off for months till this is all over? Is there a maximum number of pings one can have? just asking for clarification.

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  • It is so poorly thought out and not at all evidence based. I suppose we shouldn’t have expected anything more....

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  • Can we have a definition of what PPE is by DHSC? As I dont count the surgical masks weve been given as PPE. Neither does the WHO. Does that mean we should self isolate if a patient later tests positive?

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  • What is the point of testing if you are going to have to isolate regardless. I see Keziah Halliday comes from the same school of common sense as Nikita Kanani. Have they even sat back to think about what they are saying? The MASS protest should be every GP in Britain self isolating for 2 weeks..... in response to these stupid suggestions... to that they can see what happens when the service goes..... seriously, we shouldn't let any more trainees into the GP system.... its unethical....

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  • does 1 glove count as ppe or does it need to be 2?

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  • They need to sort the contract tracing. It is not safe. Lots of news about contact tracers not getting any work.

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  • Surely, if a GP has been identified as having been in contact with Covid19 and this GP has had contact with colleagues at his / her surgery , these colleagues will also turn into contacts, stay at home and they will have to shut shop. Result ! Finished !
    Somebody could give our patients HanCOCK’s mobile number for telephone consultations and feedback.

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