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GPs asked to buddy up with PCN practices to cover for isolating staff

GP practices have been asked to set up arrangements within PCNs, or by buddying up with other practices, to ensure patients can continue accessing services when contact traced doctors have to isolate.

The advice comes after England's deputy CMO admitted the absence of asymptomatic GPs and staff would 'put pressure' on practices.

An NHS England letter sent on Tuesday said that 'all primary care contractors' including GPs, should 'prepare for potential staff absence' by reviewing their 'existing business continuity plans'.

'This includes ensuring that arrangements are in place within a primary care network or between buddies to maintain patient access to services,' the letter said.

GP providers should also 'inform their commissioner as soon as they consider that delivery of the full contracted service may be compromised by staff absence due to Test and Trace', said NHS England.

Commissioners will then 'work with the contractor to put business continuity arrangements in place and to maintain access to services for patients', NHS England said, with providers also needing to 'update information on patient accessible websites and the impacted NHS 111 Directory of Services profiles'.

CCGs are also asked to inform their Regional Incident Coordination centre, which will notify the National Incident Coordination Centre, the document added.

This comes as the Government launched its Test and Trace programme two weeks ago, under which people who test positive for Covid-19 are asked to provide contact details for their recent close contacts so that they can be traced and asked to isolate for 14 days.

Birmingham LMC executive secretary Dr Robert Morley said: 'This would appear to be sensible guidance, and indeed I would expect that most practices probably already have this or something similar in place within their PCN, and reflected in their business continuity plans.'

It comes as the first data on the Test and Trace programme showed that the Government has so far been unable to contact a third of those who tested positive.

The same NHS England system letter also said face masks would become mandatory in GP practices from next week, although at the time of writing PHE had still not published updated guidance.

Readers' comments (11)

  • This won’t work - the buddy practice will have their own workload to deal with - let alone another practice

    This is not GMS work and it is not in the DEs either

    This is upto the commissioners to sort - either 111 take over or everyone goes to AE - they have capacity at the moment

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  • Great. Not a member of a PCN, so don’t have to bother with this garbage.

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  • If the workload on gp practices was so high then the entire gp locum workforce wouldn’t be seeing a significant drop in its workload

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  • Ah but Francis, the suspension of needless activities like CQC prep, appraisals, QOF, pointless meetings etc etc has freed us up to do clinical work, so we don’t NEED locums to plug the gaps.

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  • Not DES work. Will this stop the joint CCG DES directors from trying to push through. No but hey ho not in contract

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  • I agree, my point is that there will be the workforce to do it

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  • a gp that has to self isolate as a potetial contact but who is well should be able to telephone triage from home using the new systems in place. We can manage this ourselves without the intervention of outsiders....

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  • David Banner

    If we are all strictly following 2metre social distancing and wearing masks, why would the whole practice workforce be forced to stay off for 2 weeks just because one contracted Covid? We cannot possibly return to normal with this approach. Minimising risk is not the same as eliminating risk.

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  • Buddy up - this is the magicians way of saying 'your gonna see their patients in 5 years time' when your appoibtment books are all linked. If you opted out of a VOLUNTARY PCN-DES, NHSE boots you out of a PCN... Pulse will know that doesn't make any dumb sense and this is all a killer chirard.

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  • Is it official policy now that the GMS contract has been extended to cover the sick leaves of other GPs?

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