GPs have been advised to wear face masks and other personal protective equipment if they are in contact with a patient with suspected coronavirus (Covid-19) in updated guidance from Public Health England (PHE).
Patients booking appointments by phone or online who have symptoms and relevant travel history should be directed to NHS 111.
But if contact with a patient suspected to have coronavirus is unavoidable GPs should take standard infection control precautions and wear in line gloves, apron and fluid resistant surgical mask, the recommendations warn.
Any exposure to the patient should be kept to a minimum and they should be isolated in a room with the door closed from where they should call NHS 111, the recommendations which were updated on the 25 February advise.
The recommendations also advise on environmental cleaning should a possible case present to a GP practice.
‘Once a possible case has been transferred from the primary care premises, the room where the patient was placed should not be used, the room door should remain shut, with windows opened and the air conditioning switched off, until it has been cleaned with detergent and disinfectant,’ PHE says.
It comes as GPs continue to raise concerns about a lack of available PPE to protect their practices from coronavirus.
BMA representatives have called on NHS England to supply PPE to GP surgeries after reports that equipment is in short supply.
PHE is ramping up its surveillance efforts announcing it will conduct ‘random’ tests at 100 GP practices to detect cases of Covid-19.
It follows the World Health Organization warning countries around the world to be in ‘a phase of preparedness’ for the coronavirus becoming a pandemic.
GPs have also been told to advise patients who have recently travelled from parts of Italy to self isolate, even if they do not have symptoms of the coronavirus (Covid-19), as part of an update to the PHE list of countries most affected by the virus.
The news comes as NHS England has denied the BMA’s request for a national suspension of online booking of appointments due to the risk of patients attending without triage. However, a number of GP practices across the country have defied the national stance.
As of 25 February, a total of 6,795 people have been tested in the UK, of which 6,782 were confirmed negative and 13 positive. These figures now include the four cases from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.