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GP practices should not arrange antibody tests for staff, says BMA

GP practice staff who wish to have a Covid-19 antibody test should receive their test result directly rather than having to involve their employing practice, the BMA has said.

The BMA’s GP Committee has warned practices that registering staff members as temporary residents in order to arrange antibody tests could even put them in breach of contract.

The advice comes as some CCGs had suggested the ‘work around’ to practices, but NHS England has confirmed to the GPC that doing so is outside regulations.

GPC deputy chair Dr Mark Sanford-Wood told Pulse: ‘We had been made aware that a small number of CCGs were suggesting this as a work around to their practices.

‘It is obviously not appropriate as the staff concerned would not fulfil the necessary criteria to be registered as temporary residents.’

He wrote in the committee’s latest newsletter to practices that ‘GPC England continues to be clear that it is wholly inappropriate to use the temporary residents mechanism to test staff and may be in breach of the GMS regulations’.

He added: ‘We have contacted NHSE/I and have been advised they have told CCGs that this is outside the regulations and not practical for practices or their staff.’

The GPC stressed that ‘antibody testing for those working in general practice is not mandatory’.

‘If those working in general practice wish to have an antibody test, we believe the results should be provided directly to the individual having the test and should not require the involvement of the employer,’ said the newsletter.

NHS England had said at the end of May that GPs and their staff would get access to antibody tests after acute trust staff had been prioritised.

Regional areas should arrange these and ensure the staff member signs a consent form, a system letter said. Tests will be marked as NHS staff with the Government collecting data on the number of NHS staff tested and the proportion of positive tests.

The letter had also said GPs should offer patients antibody tests if they were having bloods taken anyway, on the order of health secretary Matt Hancock. However, the BMA has stressed that GPs can refuse patients this service warning that it would be inappropriate if patients accessed GP services for the sake of antibody tests, which have ‘no clinical benefit’.

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