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Health minister says GPs can safely ‘recommence’ face-to-face services wearing PPE

Health minister says GPs can safely ‘recommence’ face-to-face services wearing PPE

GPs can can safely ‘recommence’ face-to-face services in a ‘regular’ manner whilst wearing PPE, a health minister has suggested.

The comments come amid recent controversy over whether GP practices have been ‘open’ to the public, and despite ongoing NHS England advice to remotely triage all patients whilst the Covid-19 pandemic is ongoing.

GPs said the latest comment shows ‘a complete disconnect’ and a ‘lack of understanding of what actually goes on in primary care’.

Primary care minister Jo Churchill made the comment in response to a written parliamentary question from Conservative MP Matt Vickers.

Mr Vickers asked the health secretary ‘what assessment his department has made of the safety of face-to-face GP surgery appointments as Covid-19 lockdown restrictions are eased’.

In response, Ms Churchill said: ‘The Government and the devolved administrations have published clear guidance on appropriate personal protective equipment for health and social care workers, including GPs.  

‘The guidance is consistent with World Health Organisation guidance for protecting health and social care workers from Covid-19 and should allow the safe recommencement of regular face-to-face GP appointments.’

Ms Churchill also noted NHS England’s recent ‘reminder’ to GPs to see patients face to face.

She added: ‘On 31 August, NHS England issued guidance stating that GP practices must offer face-to-face appointments at surgeries and continue to use remote triage, video, online and telephone consultations where appropriate – whilst also considering those unable to access or engage with digital services.’

Watford GP partner Simon Hodes said the comments give ‘mixed messages’ to the public and are ‘insulting’ to the profession.

He said: ‘For a health minister to say restart seeing patients just shows a complete disconnect and lack of understanding of what actually goes on in primary care.

‘How can we restart something that has been ongoing?’

Dr Hodes added: ‘It’s just insulting to hear that because we’ve been there from day one seeing patients in pretty dubious PPE. 

‘Many of us went and bought higher grade PPE over and above that issued by Public Health England or NHS England to protect ourselves, but we’ve been there trying to offer a service to our patients.’

And what GPs have purchased ‘for their own peace of mind’ above the ‘very basic’ rations that GPs have been provided with has ‘certainly not been refunded’, he said.

The Government’s PPE provision has come under fire from GPs throughout the pandemic, with Pulse revealing last week that the emergency PPE phoneline declined 70% of requests placed by GPs up until August.

NHS England landed itself in hot water with GPs last month after it issued a press release to national newspapers suggesting GPs were not offering face-to-face appointments where necessary.

The BMA demanded NHS England issue a correction after practice staff faced abuse from patients – while NHS England’s medical director for primary care tweeted an apology for the ‘hurt’ caused.

Meanwhile, the chief medical officer recently urged patients to visit their GP in a live briefing.

And Londonwide LMCs have launched a new social media video campaign, highlighting that GP practices are open and seeing patients with cancer symptoms, using the hashtag #GPsareopen.



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Patrufini Duffy 14 October, 2020 7:28 pm

There is nothing ‘regular’ about a face to face Ms Churchill. It is a planned, risk-assessed interaction, by experts, that do not include you. If you want ‘regular’ open door shopping queue policy with an inert NHSE, come and sit next to us. Actually, come do a bogus hot clinic and we’ll give you a lollipop after for good behaviour. Perhaps one may suggest you breath, big breaths and take it all in. It’s quite a riveting, exuberant experience.

Turn out The lights 15 October, 2020 7:05 am

Why if Babylon can do it safely get paid the same as we do with minimal face to face contact why of earth should we go back to the majority face to face contact with an underfunded, understaffed ,poorly protected(still not who standard PPE) and demoralised workforce.Let alone a global pandemic where most of the workforce are at risk of high viral load.Matt the app has opened pandoras box and you are not going to close it easily without some kind of incentive to do face to face.Or you could always blow Babylons business model out of the want and cut funding for remote consultations and AI(thought you wouldn’t).You cannot have it both ways there are a few chicken coming home to roost in the public sector austerity cull.

Hank Beerstecher 15 October, 2020 9:04 am

I am probably dim or something, I thought the PPE provided was protecting patients from us, not the other way around, for that you need the next level PPE(?). What happens to the building being contaminated by aerosols from the mask-exemption waving patients, or those that think a shield without mask suffices, while coughing their way down the corridors?

Not Arvind Madan 15 October, 2020 10:03 am

If they want us to start seeing f2f, we will have to double appt slot times. Takes time to disinfect and take off the cheap and nasty PPE.

Kevlar Cardie 15 October, 2020 11:02 am

Better to be sent down by twelve than lowered down by six.

Sonia Chester 15 October, 2020 6:16 pm

Our PPE is not to WHO standards- it is sub par & distinctly non world beating. Also we were allocated out of date & faulty masks initially. Tragically 13 GP’s have died already. Normal service is not safe for clinicians, support staff or patients. NHSE & the politicians should be supporting us in delivering care for our patients while minimising infection risks for all.

David Church 16 October, 2020 10:22 pm

Again, we ask, safe for who? not us, just the MPs! not even fo rthe patients, who we should be protecting: or do they need to consent to be protected these days?