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RCGP urges patients not to contact GPs for coronavirus ‘holiday cancellation’ letters

RCGP has urged patients not to contact their GP to obtain ‘holiday cancellation’ letters due to coronavirus (Covid-19).

The college said it has heard reports of insurers and travel companies requesting GP letters in order for people to cancel holidays to destinations affected by the virus.

It comes as Public Health England (PHE) updated its guidance on countries worst-affected by the virus earlier this week.

It now advises travellers from parts of Italy, South Korea and Iran – in addition to Wuhan and Hubei in China – to self-isolate even if they do not display symptoms.

Travellers from a list of other destinations – including Japan, Hong Kong and Vietnam – should self-isolate if they develop symptoms.

In Tenerife, a number of British holidaymakers are stranded at a hotel in lockdown after a fellow guest – a doctor from Italy – tested positive for the coronavirus.

But RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall said patients wishing to avoid a similar fate should not turn to their GP to get out of their travel plans.

He said: ‘Insurers and travel companies should be basing their decisions to offer refunds on advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and PHE, not letters from GPs.

‘It is not a good use of GPs’ time to be writing letters for patients who are not ill but have plans to travel – and GPs will always base their decisions on official advice.

‘Patients will undoubtedly have good and sensible reasons for not wanting to travel to certain places because of Covid-19, but this is not the same as being unable to travel due to existing illness, and it should not become the GP’s responsibility to give patients advice about where not to travel.’

The news comes as the Chief Medical Officer announced two further confirmed UK cases of Covid-19 this morning, taking the total to 15. 

Professor Chris Whitty said: ‘The virus was passed on in Italy and Tenerife and the patients have been transferred to specialist NHS infection centres in Royal Liverpool Hospital and the Royal Free Hospital, London.’

Earlier this week, PHE announced a strategy of carrying out opportunistic coronavirus tests at 100 GP practices in a bid to identify early evidence of spread within England.