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GPs unprepared to deal with coronavirus epidemic, finds survey

GPs do not feel equipped to deal with the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak in the UK, according to a survey of around 1,600 doctors between 1-2 March.

The Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK) asked doctors if they felt that the NHS is ‘well prepared for coronavirus’.

Just eight of the 1,618 respondents, including around 800 GPs, said they did feel that the health service was ready to respond to the pandemic. 

Planned measures for the NHS to tackle the epidemic include the GMC re-registering retired doctorsdrafting in medical students; cancellations of routine care; and NHS staff being allowed to forcibly detain patients suspected of having the virus.

The poll revealed that most respondents were concerned about the ability to cope with increased demand, shortages of critical care beds and staff and the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE). 

NHS England has now advised GP practices to remote triage all patients who use online booking in order to ‘mitigate any risk’ of patients infected with Covid-19 attending the practice.

It also confirmed that all practices will receive an ‘initial stock’ of PPE, including ‘400 general use aprons, 300 pairs of examination gloves and 300 fluid repellent face masks’.

DAUK GP lead Dr Yaso Browne said: ‘Community care workers will continue to do their upmost to safeguard the most vulnerable in society but with 6,000 GP vacancies and the best treatment for Covid-19 being isolation, both healthcare workers and the community need robust plans from the Government to contain what is possible. We have GPs being quoted as feeling ‘scared’ with ‘zero protection’ in the knowledge that the current plans to manage a possible future pandemic are unclear.

‘Whilst we appreciate the proposed mobilisation of retired GPs to help with this crisis there is even greater impetus for an immediate review and change of the current pension tax that is removing needed GPs from practice’

On the latest count, a total of 20,338 people had been tested in the UK, of which 163 were confirmed positive.