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GP practices should consider having patients wait in their cars, says NHSE

NHS England has told GP practices they can ask patients to wait outside in their cars to reduce numbers in waiting rooms and avoid the spread of Covid-19.

Practices should also consider using floor markings, seating arrangements and signage to enforce social distancing in communal areas, it added.

The newly-updated GP standard operating procedures said practices should ‘use careful appointment planning to minimise waiting times and maintain social distancing in waiting areas’ to protect staff and patients from coronavirus.

It added: ‘Consider measures such as asking patients to wait in private vehicles, where possible, to reduce numbers in communal spaces.

‘Communal areas should allow for physical distancing between patients – consider the use of floor markings, seating arrangements and signage to support this.’

Other measures practices should take to ensure they are safe for face-to-face consultations are:

  • Clear signage to direct patients to the appropriate site/space;
  • Making alcohol gel/handwashing facilities readily available for patients and staff, including at site entrances;
  • De-cluttering communal spaces and clinical rooms to assist decontamination;
  • Ensuring clinical rooms have the necessary equipment for patient examination readily available and adequate and accessible provisions of PPE and clinical waste bins;
  • Identifying toilet facilities for the sole use of patients with symptoms of Covid-19 ‘if possible’. 

The document reiterated that practices should try to coordinate care so that ‘as much as possible’ is done in a single consultation and patients do not have to make multiple visits.

Meanwhile, the standard operating procedures said practices should ‘risk assess’ any patients who refuse to wear a mask, and said it would ‘fully support’ them in deciding to only provide care via a remote appointment.

It comes as the health secretary said last month that all GP consultations should be carried out remotely going forward unless there is a ‘compelling clinical reason’ to see a patient face-to-face.

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