GP leaders have called on governments and public health bodies to consider the effects of sending public health messages around single diseases, after the Strep A campaign caused ‘widespread panic and unprecedented demand’.
During the UK LMC conference last week, they also asked the public bodies to perform a ‘comprehensive’ analysis of the effects of national communications surrounding the Strep A outbreak in December last year.
The alerts issued by the UK Health Security Agency at the start of December led to high numbers of GP appointments as well as antibiotic shortages.
The motion was proposed by Dr Selvaseelan Selvarajah, from Tower Hamlets LMC.
‘”Let’s get the GPs to do it” seems to be direction of travel for every policy maker – we are all proud of the role general practice plays in our communities, we know many of our patients, they trust us and we do a massive amount of prevention work already,’ he told the conference.
‘We delivered the majority of Covid vaccines in the first round, we stepped up. But the Strep A breakout last winter was very different – the response could have been better planned and delivered better.’
He added: ‘The outbreak caused widespread panic and huge demand on general practice. We were left alone to manage individual patients while also taking on a public health responsibility on messaging.
‘We don’t have the capacity to plug gaps in the rest of the NHS or the wider system and we are not funded for that either.’
Dr Jethro Hubbard, from Gloucestershire LMC, also spoke in favour of the motion and told the conference about a case he was involved in during the outbreak last year, which led to the death of a four-year-old child and a family being unable to get antibiotics for several hours.
He said: ‘The child had to be admitted to the local hospital – tragically by that evening the four-year-old child was dead. Then, the problem started.
‘In the third phone call with the out-of-hours service, after four hours of trying, that mother finally got antibiotics for the rest of her family.
‘This is not how we should be running systems – she should have been given antibiotics by public health when she first learnt that they needed them.’
GPC negotiator Dr Clare Bannon, who led the GPC’s response to the Strep A outbreak, cautioned: ‘The potential controversy is that this motion could be read as “general practice has no responsibility to put mitigations in place for the spread of disease” which it does.’
The motion was passed in all parts.
The latest data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows that scarlet fever notifications are stable and in line with what would generally be expected at this time of year.
Motion in full
AGENDA COMMITTEE TO BE PROPOSED BY TOWER HAMLETS: That conference notes how the effects of the Strep A campaign in December 2022 caused widespread panic and unprecedented demand that could not be met by a system under pressure and:
(i) calls on governments and public health bodies to take into consideration the wider system effects of sending public health messages around single diseases
(ii) calls on governments and public health bodies to perform a comprehensive significant event analysis of the effects of national communications surrounding the Group A Streptococcal outbreak in December 2022
(iii) believes that GPs are not responsible for the management of communicable disease outbreaks as this is the role of public health
(iv) believes that general practice is not responsible for the management of asymptomatic communicable disease contacts, as it is the role of public health protection teams to arrange chemoprophylaxis
(v) calls on the relevant national agencies to ensure mechanisms are put in place to commission the prescribing of any necessary and timely treatments
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