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GPs still required to alert PHE of all ‘suspected’ Covid cases

GPs are still required to alert Public Health England (PHE) of any ‘suspected’ cases of coronavirus, the Government has confirmed.

Covid-19 was first listed as a ‘notifiable’ disease by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) at the beginning of March, meaning that GPs are required by law to report all ‘suspected’ cases to PHE.

But GPs have raised concerns over the practicality of the arrangements now that coronavirus is so widespread in the community.

At the latest count, more than two million people have been tested for suspected Covid-19 in the UK, of which over 250,000 tested positive.

However, the DHSC has now confirmed to Pulse that the legal requirement remains in force.

East London GP and PCN clinical director Dr Farzana Hussain told Pulse that reporting suspected rather than proven cases ‘doesn’t make sense’, especially since symptoms are too wide-ranging.

She said: ‘Without testing, the whole thing is confusing. Everybody with a fever, everybody now with loss of taste or smell – the symptoms are just too wide.

‘I know doctors who work in hospital who have had a fever and then had the test and it’s been negative. So we all thought it was Covid but it isn’t.’

If the figures are for data collection, they are ‘completely erroneous’, Dr Hussain said.

She added: ‘In terms of scientific data collection it just doesn’t make sense because some of those people won’t be Covid. What are we measuring?’

And with coronavirus so widespread in the community, she added that GPs may be struggling to follow the requirement ‘robustly’.

According to PHE’s list of notifiable diseases, ‘accuracy of diagnosis is secondary’.

It said: ‘PHE aims to detect possible outbreaks of disease and epidemics as rapidly as possible. Accuracy of diagnosis is secondary and since 1968 clinical suspicion of a notifiable infection is all that’s required.’

Earlier this week, the UK’s chief medical officers added anosmia – the loss of taste and smell – to the list of symptoms that should prompt people to self-isolate due to possible Covid-19.