This site is intended for health professionals only

NHS England refuses blanket suspension of GP online booking over coronavirus fears

e-consultation forms

NHS England has refused the BMA’s request to allow GPs to switch off their online booking systems to protect practices from the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19).

The BMA told Pulse that NHS England ‘does not believe national suspension of online booking is a proportionate response currently’.

LMCs will instead have to lobby CCGs in areas where there are ‘local concerns’ about the spread of the virus, the doctors’ representative body was informed.

The BMA raised the issue following concerns that digital booking systems might not triage patients with suspected coronavirus appropriately.

A BMA spokesperson said: ‘NHS England has told us that it does not believe national suspension of online booking is a proportionate response currently. NHS England did, however, say that where there were local concerns, that practices should raise this with commissioners via LMCs so that decisions can be made locally.

‘We continue to be concerned about the potential risk to staff and patients in practices with the use of online services without triage and will continue to push for suspension as a local option where appropriate.’

The BMA is also pushing for GP practices to be provided with necessary equipment to protect staff from Covid-19.

The spokesperson said: ‘We have also asked NHS England what it is doing to ensure practices are provided with the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE).’

NHS England told Pulse that there is no shortage of PPE. Practices should follow the official advice on isolating patients and use the same equipment they usually do when treating patients with illnesses like norovirus.

It comes as GPs continued to raise concerns last week that NHS 111 was directing patients with flu-like symptoms to consult their GP, without asking whether they have travelled from regions worst-affected by Covid-19.

NHS England announced yesterday that eight out of the nine UK patients being treated for coronavirus have been discharged from hospital.

And 11 out of the 12 GP practices across England that had to close due to coronavirus have confirmed that they have now reopened, including Kingston Crescent Surgery in Portsmouth, which closed on Friday.

The Avenue Surgery in Brighton remains shut after it announced via a statement on its website that GP Dr Robert Hacking has been advised to ‘self-isolate’ for 14 days after being ‘in contact’ with someone who tested positive for the virus.