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Government’s ‘confusing’ Covid message to put strain on GP practices, warns BMA



GP practices will likely be contending with new workload in light of the Government’s announcement it is easing the coronavirus lockdown in England, the BMA’s GP Committee has warned.

GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey said this could include more requests for fit notes and letters to employers, as the Government said people who cannot work from home should begin to return to work from this week.

He also warned that the ‘confusing’ message was likely to increase the risk of the virus spreading and putting strain on the NHS, including GP services.

Dr Vautrey said: ‘One of the Westminster Government’s key tests for easing lockdown is ensuring the NHS can cope – and this of course must include general practice.

‘The Government’s confusing messages around working, travelling and visiting public places heightens the chances of the virus spreading further and extending the current crisis. In turn, this could increase pressure on services, including GP practices, which are supporting their patients through the pandemic.’

In a speech to the nation last night, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the Government now needed ‘to stress that anyone who can’t work from home, for instance those in construction or manufacturing, should be actively encouraged to go to work’.

But Dr Vautrey said: ‘Specifically, as more people are expected to return to work, practices are likely to be faced with more requests for fit notes and letters for concerned patients’ employers.

‘We know GPs are already worried at the large backlog of poorly patients not getting the treatment they need because of efforts to tackle Covid-19 – and any attempts to ease lockdown measures must not overwhelm the NHS and risk delaying their care even further.’

In a 50-page explainer to the easing of the lockdown published this afternoon, the Government also announced more details about the care home support service which it is expecting GP practices to participate in.

This includes each care home having a named clinician by this Friday (15 May) at the latest.

The document also said that:

  • the Government ‘remains committed to delivering its manifesto’, including ‘creating 50 million new GP surgery appointments’;
  • it ‘is likely that the Government will continue to advise people who are clinically extremely vulnerable to shield beyond June’;
  • it ‘is possible a safe and effective vaccine will not be developed for a long time (or even ever)’;
  • ‘homemade cloth face-coverings can help reduce the risk of transmission in some circumstances’.

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