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Give me a call, 111

I’m going to buck the trend here. One: I’m not going to say coronavirus or covid-19, because the very sounds of those words is already enough to make me heave. And two: knowing what an impossible job it has been trying to cope just in my own practice with the havoc created by the Microorganism That Shall Not Be Named, I’m going to doff my PPE mask, if I had one, to all those who have been trying to sort it out on a national scale.

So Public Health, Government, Government Advisers and everyone else who’s pitched in and yes, I include 111 in that, well done. Yes, you’ve dropped a few rickets along the way but, Jeez, this one isn’t easy, and it’s quite clear that you’re taking tough decisions and you’re trying to communicate them. And I genuinely believe that when you, say, forget what the implications might be for general practice when you change the working diagnosis of MTSNBN to potentially incorporate about 50% of those that attend my surgery, it’s not because you don’t care, it’s because you need a 25th hour in the day to think straight.

So, knowing you are doing your best, I am prepared to keep panicking and carrying on. But please sort out just one teensy thing. Specifically, tell us in GP land exactly what 111 are being scripted to say for coughs, sore throats, sniffles, fever and all the other respiratory epiphenomena that might or might not be MTSNBN. Because it is so hard in general practice trying to work out our own flow charts and protocols for reception, switchboard, nurses, trainees and ourselves when we’re not exactly sure what a) You’re dealing with b) Bouncing to us c) Saying – and therefore where our true entry point is.

We want to be sure we’re triaging the right stuff to you. We don’t want to duplicate what you’re doing. We don’t want to bounce stuff that will rebound back, twice as disgruntled. And we want to know when patients say that 111 told them to ‘See my GP to get some antibiotics’ (as per patient yesterday) whether they’re actually telling a pack of fibs.

So let’s integrate, a bit, shall we? That doesn’t mean shaking hands, but it does mean sharing information.

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. Read more of Copperfield’s blogs at