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GPs have until next Monday to review self-identified vulnerable patients

GPs must review all patients who have self-identified as being high risk via the Government’s website by next Monday (20 April), after practices are told the names of these patients ‘on or around 17 April’, NHS England has said.

This comes as GPs were given until 5pm on Tuesday to review patients that have been flagged by NHS England as being at the highest clinical risk from Covid-19 and to add any missed patients to this register.

Practices were originally told they should have completed reviewing patients flagged by NHS England by the end of Easter Monday.

But in an alert sent to GP practices before the Easter weekend, NHS England said all flagged patients who require ‘shielding’ – involving quarantining themselves for 12 weeks – should be reviewed by GPs by 5pm on 14 April.

If GPs believe any of these patients have been inappropriately identified as high risk, they should themselves flag them on their IT system as medium or low risk, said NHS England.

The NHS England alert added: ‘In these cases, you may wish to contact these patients to discuss your revised assessment of them.’

Practices are also required to flag extra patients who are of the highest clinical risk – but have been missed off NHS England’s list – and must send them a copy of the patient letter advising them to shield, both by 5pm today.

NHS England stressed GPs ‘will already be aware of their most vulnerable patients’ and ‘the sooner flags are applied the faster individuals can be offered shielding support’ by the Government.

Once GPs have marked these additional patients on their IT systems, NHS Digital will extract the details on a weekly basis and patients will be offered shielding support by the Government.

But NHS England warned there would be a lag in processing the information and patients requiring urgent help in the meantime should contact their local authority.

In addition, GPs are expected to complete the ‘ongoing task’ of reviewing patients who have been identified by hospital doctors as being high risk. If GPs believe patients have been inappropriately identified as high risk they ‘may wish to discuss this with the patient and/or the trusts who have identified them’.

But if the GP and hospital trusts cannot agree, the patient must remain in the highest risk category, said NHS England.

The NHS England alert, sent on 9 April outlining the deadlines, said: ‘We now need all practices to complete the work involved for them in parts one to three of the patient identification process, as set out in this letter as soon as possible, and by no later than 17:00 Tuesday 14 April.

‘This is to ensure that all relevant patients have been given essential advice on shielding. It will ensure all patients added locally will be able to access the government support offer.

‘There will be a time lag between you flagging any additional patients, and the information being processed centrally, and if in the meantime any of these patients require urgent additional support they should contact their local authority.’

Referring to patients that have self-identified as high risk through the Government website, the alert said: ‘The names of individuals who registered on the website prior to 29 March but have not been identified through the central process, will be communicated to each GP practice shortly.

‘This list will be sent to you within your GP IT system on or around 17th April.  The number of patients is relatively small, and it is unlikely you will be adding any or many of these, given the review you will have already completed of patients the practice has added.’

NHS England added: ‘Once you receive the list, please review these individuals, determine their appropriate Covid-19 risk category and flag them as high, medium or low risk as appropriate.

‘For any of these patients you flag as high risk, you will need to send them a copy of the patient letter giving advice on shielding.’