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NHS England urgently calls on GPs to offer spare time to Covid-19 triage service

NHS England is calling on GPs to ‘urgently’ offer up their time to assist the covid clinical assessment service (CCAS).

The CCAS is being set up as an extension of NHS 111’s coronavirus (Covid-19) response, into which call handlers can refer patients who require further assessment by a clinician to determine whether they need hospitalisation.

NHS England said GPs whose practices were ‘less busy’ could offer some of their ‘paid-for time’ to staff the service, while others could work for the CCAS in their spare time.

Speaking to GPs in a live webinar on Thursday evening, NHS England director for primary care strategy and NHS contracts Ed Waller said: ‘We’re going to be writing out – hopefully tomorrow – to all GPs. We need your help quite urgently with the establishment of the covid clinical assessment service (CCAS).

‘We need more clinicians than we have currently during the course of the next two or three weeks available at various times of the day and night to make the clinical assessments of people coming through the 111 system and in the long run this has quite a significant benefit to practices.’

Mr Waller said that the CCAS would ‘shield practices from patients who can simply be given advice on how to self-isolate at home with mild symptoms’, helping to reduce the ‘volume of patients we’re likely to see over the next few weeks’.

He added that by ensuring patients get ‘a timely clinical assessment’ it would ‘smooth the impact’ on practices in parts of the country which are harder hit by the virus as the pandemic will ‘progress at different speeds in different parts of the country’.

He said: ‘What we really need people to do tomorrow onwards is to respond to our call for those volunteers.

‘We’re going to be asking people to do one of two things – either to offer additional time or if as some practices have told us they aren’t as busy as they usually would be, to offer some of their current paid-for time in the NHS as part of that service.’

NHS 111 online will use an algorithm to sort patients into cohorts, including those with severe symptoms who require an ambulance, those with mild symptoms, and those who require further clinical assessment.

GPs will be notified of those high-risk patients who have mild symptoms that have contacted NHS 111, and will similarly be notified of patients with mild symptoms who are advised by NHS 111 to self-isolate at home.

Patients needing further assessment will be passed on to CCAS, which NHS England is also hoping to staff with returning retired clinicians.

Following assessment by the CCAS, if patients do not require hospitalisation or are not showing mild symptoms that can be managed through self-isolation then they will either receive a face-to-face assessment in primary care, or their GP practice will take ‘proactive action’, such as monitoring them by phone.

Working for the CCAS

NHS England is seeking GPs who are on the Performers List and currently work as salaried or partner GPs who can:

  1. make a substantial time commitment to the service (at least two sessions a week over April, subject of course to changes in local needs), working remotely with shifts available 24/7. This could be as a volunteer in your currently contracted NHS time by agreement with your practice, or in addition paid at £200/session, or a combination. Doctors who are currently working on the service will have pay uplifted to £200/session from today.
  2. be willing to undertake (approximately) four hours of paid training to be ready to work on the CCAS, and complete a limited amount of necessary paperwork and IT/telephony set up as quickly as possible to allow them to work from next week.
  3. have access either personally or through their employer to a Windows PC or laptop.
  4. sign an Honorary Contract with South Central Ambulance Service Foundation Trust to work as part of the CCAS declaring that they are appropriately employed within their practice and have met the usual statutory and mandatory training requirements necessary to fulfil their role.

GPs can sign up here

Source: NHS England