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LMC advises practices to prepare to suspend all routine appointments

GP practices in Derbyshire are poised to suspend all routine appointments in response to the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, following advice from their LMC.

Derby and Derbyshire LMC announced today that ‘it is likely’ that routine GP appointments will be put on hold ‘whilst surgeries concentrate on urgent care for the most unwell’.

Other measures designed to reduce the spread of coronavirus and minimise the impact on the most frail and vulnerable patients may include a move from face-to-face appointments to telephone and digital consultations, said the LMC.

The LMC added that it is also ‘likely’ that all patients will be telephone triaged before they are offered an appointment.

In a formal statement, Derby and Derbyshire LMC chief executive Dr Kath Markus said there will be ‘rapid changes in the way Derbyshire general practice functions’.

She added: ‘All changes will be designed to reduce the spread of the virus and minimise the impact of COVID-19 on our most vulnerable and frail patients.

‘It is likely that:1) Routine GP appointments will be suspended whilst surgeries concentrate on urgent care for the most unwell. 2) Patients will see a movefrom face-to-face appointments to telephone and virtual appointments. 3) Practices will move to a system where ALL patients will need to speak to a medical professionalto determine the need for an appointment (telephone triage).’

Dr Markus reiterated that patients who suspect they have Covid-19 symptoms should go to NHS 111 online and not attend their surgery, while those with a fever or a new persistent cough should self-isolate for seven days.

It comes as the chief medical officers yesterday said that expectations on routine GP services will be relaxed if the spread of coronavirus becomes a ‘significant epidemic’ in the UK.

A Pulse survey yesterday revealed that two out of five GPs have still not received any personal protective equipment (PPE) against coronavirus.

Meanwhile, GPs have been forced to draw up their own emergency plans amid a lack of guidance from NHS England on how to manage patients turning up with respiratory symptoms.

As of 12 March, 29,764 people have been tested in the UK, of which 29,174 were confirmed negative and 590 were confirmed as positive. Eight patients who tested positive for COVID-19 have died.