GPs fear they do not have suitable personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect their practices from the coronavirus infection.
The BMA has called for NHS England to supply PPE to GP surgeries amid reports that the equipment is in short supply, with some UK suppliers setting up helplines to deal with the demand.
Current guidelines from NHS England state that GP surgeries do not need specialist PPE. According to NHS England, the guidelines come as a result of in-depth consultations with infection prevention specialists but they have been causing confusion and anger in the GP community.
East Sussex LMC chair Dr Russell Brown, a member of the BMA’s GP Committee, said: ‘It’s just absolutely typical that there is absolutely no thought whatsoever given to supporting general practice.
‘We have a bit [of PPE equipment], but it’s utterly ridiculous that [only] the hospitals and everyone get supplied. NHS England are expecting very small general practices to do everything themselves.’
NHS England told Pulse that GPs should not be dealing with coronavirus cases and so coronavirus PPE is not needed.
GPs fear that the guidelines have not been well thought out and have raised concerns about deep cleaning surgeries without specialist PPE. NHS England has stated that regular PPE, more commonly used when a patient presents with an illness such as norovirus, is adequate for GP surgeries.
‘I’m sorry, but this is not normal business. This is something exceptional and I think there should be a lot more support from NHS England,’ said Dr Brown.
In some areas in the country, CCGs are helping local GP surgeries.
Dr Grant Ingrams, a GP in Leicester, told Pulse that his surgery was invited to a recent meeting where all attendees would be given coronavirus PPE.
‘Unfortunately, the meeting was oversubscribed, so no one from our practice could go to it, so I don’t know where that leaves us,’ he said.
Dr Ingrams added: ‘We’ve tasked our assistant manager to try and source some PPE. At the moment we don’t have any. We are doomed really. In terms of preparation I don’t think we are, I think we should all just run around with our hands in the air saying “panic”.
‘The NHS isn’t prepared for it. The NHS is running at over capacity at the moment anyway and if this grows, the NHS won’t cope with this at all. We’ll find ways of coping, but it will be at the expense of current patients. Patients will suffer significantly.’
The BMA is still awaiting a response to their request to supply GP surgeries with coronavirus PPE.
NHS England told Pulse that there needs to be some communication with GPs, but it was business as usual and there was no shortage of regular PPE.
The news comes as NHS England has denied the BMA’s request for a national suspension of online booking of appointments due to the risk of patients attending without triage. However, a number of GP practices across the country have defied the national stance.