GP practices must make sure that they do not ‘feel closed’ to sick patients that need them during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, NHS England has said.
NHS England medical director for primary care Dr Nikki Kanani told GPs in a webinar last week that although practices must ‘absolutely’ remote triage patients and protect their staff, they still need to ensure that those who are ill ‘can get through’.
She said: ‘People are finding it hard to make sure they get help. We’ve had a number of children sadly die with non-Covid symptoms and I think it’s really important that we try and make sure that our surgeries don’t feel closed.’
The ‘problem’ with staying at home and complying with the Government’s social distancing rules is that ‘people are not necessarily accessing healthcare when they need to’, Dr Kanani added.
NHS England is working on public messaging to ensure that patients know they still need medical help for certain sets of symptoms not associated with coronavirus, such as stroke symptoms, she said.
However, she added that she was ‘asking for some help’ from practices.
She said: ’I know it’s difficult because we’ve all changed operating model so quickly.’
NHS England’s latest standard operating procedure for general practice reiterated that all patients should be triaged remotely and practices should use remote consultations ‘where possible’, but that practices must maintain access to both urgent and ‘essential’ routine care ‘for all patients’.
Some face-to-face contact with symptomatic patients may also be necessary, so practices should designate areas and staff to the management of coronavirus patients or designate certain practices within their PCN as ‘hot hubs’, it added.
The guidance added that practices or PCNs must set up a dedicated home-visiting team for ‘shielded’ patients, unless a designated site has been set up for this.
Meanwhile, NHS England has committed to providing GPs with IT solutions including laptops to enable them to work remotely during the pandemic – amid criticism from GPs that their remote working was disrupted by IT issues.