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Out-of-hours GPs switch to unmarked cars to avoid attack in riots

Exclusive Out-of-hours GPs were forced to reduce home visits and switch to using their own unmarked cars to avoid being targeted by rioters last night, as a wave of disturbances swept across London.

An LMC leader working for out-of-hours provider SELDOC, which covers patients in Brixton, Peckham and Clapham, some of the areas hit hardest by looters, told Pulse GPs had decided not to do home visits in the firm's cars, because they feared that their resemblance to police cars would single them out for attack.

Dr Stewart Kay, chair of Southwark LMC, said GPs were forced to triage patients into four categories, with home visits only carried out for those most at risk.

He said: ‘Clearly [the service] was severely affected, but in a manageable way. We did not take our cars out because SELDOC's cars look like police cars. As it happened we didn't need to do any home visits until after midnight when it was dying down a bit.

But despite the disruption, Dr Kay said GPs coped admirably with the situation so far: ‘There have been a few smashed windows but I think most things can be handled sensibly.'

Elsewhere, Charlton House Medical Centre on Tottenham High Road, close to where the violence first escalated on Saturday night, said it had reverted to emergency appointments only since the weekend, with two of its three GPs still working. The surgery said its clinical waste bin had also been taken from outside the premises.

And at the St James Medical Centre in Croydon, half a mile from the razed building in the town centre, a quarter of patients had cancelled their appointments this morning.

The riots have prompted Londonwide LMCs to issue guidance to GPs to help reduce risk to themselves and patients, advising them to secure prescriptions and drugs, remove cash and valuables and draw up contingency plans to protect colleagues and staff.


Londonwide LMCs' advice

  • Protect Colleagues and Staff:
    Make sure you discuss and record arrangements for access and exiting the premises, and have a clear means of communicating with colleagues and staff. Establish a named practice contact with a nominated mobile number and email address. Agree with staff and colleagues to share contact numbers, and have a simple codeword that identifies if  they are in trouble, and report such cases to the police using 101, or 999 if in immediate danger. Note that colleagues and staff living locally may be or feel subject to intimidation, and may not be able to attend the premises
  • Inform patients:
    Using reasonable commonsense means make patients aware that normal services may be disrupted; house calls may not be possible and routine requests subject to delay.  It may be necessary to increase the availability of telephone consultations.
  • Secure  Records:
    Ensure that manual records are out of sight and in locked storage. Ensure that computer back tapes are in a fireproof safe; consider a second back up to be kept temporarily off the premises, but be aware of data protection requirements.  The tapes may need to be encrypted, or stored on alternative licensed premises (PCT or neighbouring practice)
  • Secure Prescriptions/drugs
    Ensure "blue" (for DDA drugs) FP10s are secure or kept off the premises.  Lock FP10 pads and computer prescription forms out of sight. Consider a notice – prominently visible from the street – stating that ‘no powerful drugs are kept on the premises', and ensure this is the case.
  • Remove Cash and Valuables, and Secure  Equipment
    Consider a notice – prominently visible from the street – stating that ‘no cash or valuables  are kept on the premises', and ensure this is the case
  • PCT Cluster
    Notify the PCT Cluster of any problems which affect delivery of services.