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Majority of GPs think England Covid restrictions removed too soon


Covid restrictions


The majority of GPs in England think Covid restrictions should still apply, a Pulse survey has revealed. 

Speaking to Pulse, GPs said removing restrictions meant difficulties keeping vulnerable people safe, and they expressed particular concern with regards to the scrapping of free Covid testing.

More than two-thirds of GPs are also concerned about their own health in light of the lifting of restrictions. 

Since the end of last month (24 February), fully-vaccinated people and children have not been required to isolate if they develop symptoms of Covid-19 and, from next week (1 April) free testing will be scrapped altogether except for the most vulnerable. 

However, asked in a Pulse survey to what extent they agreed with the Government’s decision to remove restrictions:  

  • Well over half (59%) of GPs said they disagreed and almost a quarter (24%) of GPs said they ‘strongly’ disagreed. 
  • Although another quarter (27%) of GPs did agree with scrapping restrictions, only 7.5% ‘strongly’ agreed. 
  • Of the respondents, more than two thirds (69%) felt concerned about their own health with the removal of restrictions – 23% of these felt very concerned. Just 31% felt unconcerned. 

Repeated worries included the lifting of restrictions being ‘premature’, that the decision was ‘politically-driven’ rather than based on science and evidence, and that clinically vulnerable people are now at increased risk.

Dr Finola O’Neill, a locum GP in Exeter, said she ‘can’t see any logic’ to removing testing and self-isolation and believes it’s ‘a political measure to try to show success.’

With the Government encouraging more face-to-face GP appointments, Dr O’Neill said: ‘What happens when we can’t test to see if a patient has Covid? We are bringing vulnerable people into our surgeries, so we have to try to keep Covid out of them somehow.’

Many GPs felt testing and self-isolation rules should have been kept in place.

Dr O’Neill said: ‘The restrictions on people’s lives are generally gone. Testing just allows people to know if they’ve got Covid, and most people think it’s reasonable to stay away from others if they have.

‘Calling it a restriction to test and self-isolate, when it’s an infection control measure, is a psychological technique to influence how people view it. Testing is a diagnostic tool.’

Dr Mohammed Huda, a locum GP in Staffordshire, pointed to the fact Covid is ‘still a highly infectious disease which can have a devastating impact,’ while North Tyneside GP partner Dr Patricia Foxen said getting rid of free Covid testing ‘will make accurate diagnosis impossible’.

Dr David Coleman, a GP partner in Doncaster, said ‘emphasis on PCR testing’ should have been retained, as it ‘remains important that we are vigilant about the threat of new variants.’

He said he has taken ‘a cautious view’ with regard to restrictions throughout the pandemic, but it feels like now is ‘broadly the right time’ to lift them.

Of those GPs in favour of the removal of Covid restrictions was a locum GP who highlighted the damaging effect of them, including the backlog of patient cases and impact on people’s mental health.

The GP, who wished to remain anonymous, said: ‘I think there’s a balance to be struck between safety and quality of life.’

She added: ‘I think people have to have accountability for themselves. If they feel ill, they should be sensible enough to stay at home. I’m happy for us to ditch everything, including testing, and just get on with it.’

Another GP partner said: ‘The world needs to continue. I think with vaccines as they are, risk of Covid is as low as it will be, so ongoing significant restrictions can’t be justified.’

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, has said the removal of Covid restrictions ‘fails to protect those at highest risk of harm from Covid-19, and neglects some of the most vulnerable people in society.’

He said: ‘Far from giving people more freedom,’ it is ‘likely to cause more uncertainty and anxiety.’

Patients, staff and visitors should continue to wear face masks in GP practices, NHS England has said, with ‘no immediate changes’ planned to infection prevention control guidance.

In a letter sent to GP practices and PCNs last month, NHS England said Covid-positive staff should not attend work and that it would write to staff ‘in the coming weeks’ with detail on testing protocols for staff and patients.

However, no such advice has been forthcoming and GP practices remain in the dark about whether they should continue twice-weekly asymptomatic testing from 1 April – and if so, whether doctors and staff will have to fund this out of their own pockets. 

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READERS' COMMENTS [7]

Dave Haddock 25 March, 2022 10:24 am

Depressing; people with well paid secure jobs, nice homes and gardens, see no problems with perpetual lockdown.

David Jarvis 25 March, 2022 10:52 am

Mask wearing and self isolation if ill does not equal a lockdown. But the removal of these small impositions has lead to an quite marked increase in cases and admissions.

Adam Crowther 25 March, 2022 11:16 am

Almost forced us into a position of “ do not attend the practice if you are unwell or someone in your household or workplace has been unwell”!! It would be nice to at least be able to ask patients before attending or walking into the practice to have a negative lateral flow test. This allows us to protect the workforce both from covid and burnout due to colleague absences as well as our vulnerable folk and of course our regular folk from a tired, diminished and robbed of their goodwill workforce

Dave Haddock 25 March, 2022 2:04 pm

“has lead to an quite marked increase in cases and admissions”
Indeed, we wouldn’t want people catching a nasty cold.
Covid now less lethal than flu, thanks to vaccination and post-infection immunity.

Mark Cathcart 26 March, 2022 9:41 am

“Majority of gps sampled” would be better headline as the number asked is only 761
So in reality a tiny fraction of English gps have contributed to this survey
Statistics are used all the time to push one agenda over another and the article needs to highlight the small sample size before drawing sweeping conclusions

David Jarvis 28 March, 2022 11:17 am

If it was just a nasty cold with people at home then fine. But when 121 in a local hospital that is impacting on other significant illness care for other patients. The graph was going down and has shot up with the removal of the minimal restrictions. Oddly the sympathy I have for the unvaccinated getting admitted is diminished by their impact on a lot of other patients care. The selfishness I see is really rather depressing whether that be small impositions like mask wearing and handwashing it is too much for some people.

Patrufini Duffy 28 March, 2022 3:07 pm

And most people think this has all been an utter faecal show from day 1. To be continued. The only people who killed off 160,000 UK citizens is the UK Government.
No one else. And they got away with it. With brilliant profit.