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GP practices ‘asked to trace patients who have come into contact with measles’

Exclusive Public health teams are requesting that GP practices trace patients who have come into contact with measles, Pulse has learned.

Local GP leaders said a GP practice was put under ‘undue pressure’ to provide information on all patients who were in the waiting room at the same time as a patient who was later diagnosed with measles.

The BMA confirmed that this work is not covered under the GMS contract and, as such, practices are not obliged to trace patients.

In a notice to local GPs, Worcestershire LMC said: ‘Practices are being contacted by Public Health asking them to perform contact tracing. There are two problems with this. The first is that it is not a contractual obligation and the second is what practices are being asked to do is probably impossible anyway.’

It added: ‘A practice nearby was recently asked to provide information of all the patients that were in the waiting room at the time the patient was there with, what turned out to be, measles.

‘Public Health has been putting undue pressure on practices to do this work and the LMC advice is to robustly decline. GPs are not commissioned to provide such services.’

The BMA said it had heard of GP practices being pressured to perform contact tracing following the recent spike in measles cases, but said this was not ‘a GP practice’s role’.

BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘Practices work hard to ensure as many children are immunised as possible to protect them against measles. However when there is a local outbreak there can be an inconsistent approach taken to support the practices that are impacted.

‘It’s not a GP practice’s role to contact trace, and Public Health England, NHS England and CCGs need to work better together to ensure that outbreaks are dealt with appropriately and that when practices are involved they are fully supported with the necessary resources.’

A Public Health England spokesperson said: ‘We have not put any national communications out asking GPs to follow up with contact tracing. The responsibility for this normally sits with local health protection teams.’

Pulse has approached Worcestershire County Council for comment.

The news comes as recent figures showed that in the first six months of 2018 there were 643 confirmed measles cases in England, with 225 in London alone. In comparison, there were just 267 reported cases across the whole country last year.

PHE has attributed the sharp rise to a drop in the vaccination rate in the early 2000s.

Coverage levels dipped to a low of 80% in 2003, leading to large numbers of unprotected young adults now at risk of catching measles, particularly in environments such as summer festivals and when travelling abroad.