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Health secretary targeting on-the-spot Covid testing in GP practices

Health secretary Matt Hancock is ‘optimistic’ new technology is on the way to enable GPs to test patients for Covid-19 in their practices with an immediate result.

Mr Hancock revealed the news in response to a question from former primary care minister Steve Brine, the MP for Winchester.

The news comes as NHS England plans for live swab testing for coronavirus in primary care, outlined in June, did not materialise.

Speaking in Monday’s House of Commons debate about Covid testing shortages, Mr Brine said:  ‘Given the operational challenges that the Secretary of State spoke about, I wonder whether GP surgeries, or even our wonderful community pharmacists, could be part of the solution for front-door testing.’

To which Mr Hancock responded: ‘My honourable friend is a great expert in this issue and makes a really important point. The current technology works best in labs – people send a swab to the lab and get the result back, but there is a huge amount of logistics around that. We want technologies that can be in a pharmacy or a GP service, so that people get the test result back straight away. 

‘When such technologies come on stream – I am optimistic about this, as I am about a lot of things; I do not think I could do this job at the moment without being optimistic – that will give us a chance to get testing out into the community at every level.’

Mr Hancock said this comes as the Government wants to bring about Covid testing ‘solutions that are deeply embedded in the community’ rather than a ‘big national system’, adding: ‘When we have the technology to do that, we will be in a stronger place, and we are putting every possible effort and support behind people to try to make that happen.’

Monday’s debate also saw the health secretary promise to reprioritise access to testing – after being alerted to the fact of healthcare professionals needlessly isolating because they cannot access Covid tests.

This followed Pulse’s exclusive revelation last week that GPs could not work because they or their children had symptoms that may or may not be related to Covid-19.


Anonymous 16 September, 2020 8:17 pm

More than happy to oblige Matt but that’s one less video consultation per swab test to do though or one less child to vaccinate if my nurses do them.

Anonymous 16 September, 2020 9:22 pm

You might want to put a link on the front page (the one that appears on the site when you cannot log in) to restring your password. I tried, repeatedly, to put in my details on the ‘register’ page, and it just freezes and doesn’t indicate why. Only when later checking email did I see I had a link from earlier today inviting me to reset password. Many will hit the brick wall I did, and give up on registering as they won’t notice the ‘reset password’ email in their inboxes.

Anonymous 17 September, 2020 6:24 am

As predicted , really . This was the question I asked my LMC secretary last week :
‘’Am I the scaremonger that the government might pass the buck of testing to GPs eventually?👿😈‘’
It looks like the technology comes from a Chinese company as being reported in the media . They are using that in their hospitals . Obviously , we want to know more about the reliability(hence , sensitivity and specificity of the test) and quality control of the test kit .
But once again , my ideological slogan :
The government needs GPs more than GPs need it .

Anonymous 17 September, 2020 6:25 am

Vinci Ho

Anonymous 17 September, 2020 9:26 am

Who in their right mind would want to be GP this winter the way things are going ?? Going to crunch my early retirement numbers at the weekend .

Anonymous 17 September, 2020 9:56 am

Hmmmmm? So a few days after managing to convince the whole country we are closed and sitting on our backsides doing nothing he is now suggesting we are “best placed” to do (Potentially) millions of Covid tests each day…and of course there will be no extra funding (not that extra funding will do any good at all without extra staff).

The public will think it’s a great idea to get these lazy GPS doing something …..and then when it all goes tits up who will get the blame? Now let me think…….. I am hoping that this time the BMA will just say No….. this is just not feasible. We are already almost on our knees and haven’t yet hit flu season. This should NOT be the responsibility of primary care.

Anonymous 17 September, 2020 12:43 pm

How many million a day? Hand how many UK GPs? c 35000. Easy!

Anonymous 17 September, 2020 2:38 pm

They really want us to ask patients with covid into the practice? Jeez…

Anonymous 17 September, 2020 2:51 pm

World beating moonshots, more spaff from the government.

Anonymous 17 September, 2020 2:54 pm

Spaff meaning waste and squander of course,not the other meaning.

Anonymous 17 September, 2020 3:40 pm

That makes sense – expose the GP workforce so practices close. Genius plan.

Anonymous 17 September, 2020 9:32 pm

Not in our contract- just dont do it.

Anonymous 17 September, 2020 11:02 pm

What a total load of bollocks … no no & no . General practice is already on its knees thank you very much, this is the dumbest idea I’ve heard …

Charles Richards 20 September, 2020 9:22 am

On the spot = IgG. This is of little or no value as an acute management tool. It is also of low sensitivity. (Many false negatives). This sounds like distraction from the failure of test, track and trace, and Dido Harding’s frankly incredible assertion that no one warned her that return to school and easing lock down would cause a spike! Blaming scientists and parents does not sound like the new Public Health body has independence from Government, not does an unqualified political appointee to head it.