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Primary care should consult patients remotely, says health secretary

All primary care consultations should be carried out remotely unless there are clinical or practical reasons not to, the health secretary has said.

Matt Hancock made the comments during last night’s coronavirus (Covid-19) debate in the House of Commons, but no guidance appears to officially reflect this transition.  

Mr Hancock said: ‘We have moved to a principle of digital first in primary care and with outpatients: unless there are clinical or practical reasons, all consultations should be done by telemedicine.’

A letter from NHS England to regional NHS leads, sent out last week, urged secondary and community care to move to remote consultations if possible, but an NHS England spokesperson told Pulse at the time that this did not apply to general practice.

Despite this, Pulse could report that a number of GP practices across the country had already swapped to telephone-first models in a bid to protect their staff and patients.

This week, GPs were saying they felt forced to draw up their own coronavirus response plans amid confusion over NHS England advice.

New guidance out this week said GPs should treat any respiratory illness requiring hospitalisation as a possible coronavirus case.

But GPs pointed out that they would not be able to make such a judgement without examining the patient – which they have been told to avoid if they suspect coronavirus.

Nearly 600 people have now tested positive for coronavirus in the UK, as the Government confirmed a further 134 cases in the last 24 hours.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to chair a Cobra meeting regarding the coronavirus today, which could see the UK’s response to the emergency escalated.