GP practices plan to take a cautious approach as the Government lifts requirements for self-isolation next week.
From Monday 16 August, people who are double jabbed as well as the under 18s will not be legally required to self-isolate if they are identified as a close contact of a Covid-19 case.
Instead people will be advised to get a PCR test as soon as possible to check if they have been infected but they will not have to isolate while they wait for the results. People will be advised to take precautions such as wearing a mask.
It follows the announcement in July that fully-vaccinated GPs who are identified as a close contact of someone with Covid could avoid self-isolation in ‘exceptional circumstances’.
GPs told Pulse they have a responsibility to potentially vulnerable patients and will be keeping measures in place where they can.
Dr Richard Cook, a GP in West Sussex said they intended to take it on a case-by-case basis.
‘We currently have a few staff in this exact situation and we are erring on the side of caution and asking them to self isolate.
‘We are a big practice and can accommodate more absence perhaps, but it is becoming a real struggle. I suspect smaller practices will be hit harder. It’s OK working from home but as we are seeing so many more face-to-face patients now it becomes more difficult.’
Professor Azeem Majeed, professor of primary care at Imperial College London and a GP in Clapham said: ‘We will wait for the PCR test result before we let our staff have contact with patients in these circumstances – if they have been fully vaccinated.
‘Our staff are already carrying out regular lateral flow tests. We hope these measures – along with our other infection control measures – will minimise the risk of infection to our patients.’
Dr Rob Barnett, medical secretary of Liverpool LMC said he had just received the advice that would be going out to practices, noting that GP staff were often looking after vulnerable people and did not want to be the cause of the spread of Covid.
‘For any health and social care staff the advice is they require a negative PCR before returning to work then daily negative lateral flow tests for 10 days and there should be a risk assessment if they’re likely to be in contact with higher vulnerable people. I think that’s a sensible response.
‘August 16th is another one of those worrying days,’ he added. ‘Infections in Liverpool have settled at around 350 per 100,000 and this time last year they were 30 per 100,000. I don’t think it’s going to go down particularly quickly and if we have this rate in the middle of summer, I suspect we’re going to run into problems in autumn and winter.’