This site is intended for health professionals only

Pulse view: Follow your instincts

The Government adviser, Dominic Cummings, was responsibly ‘following his instincts as a father and a parent’ when he took his family to Durham while he and his wife were symptomatic, we have been told by a number of Cabinet ministers.

Following your instincts is seemingly a new addition to the Government’s advice. What were to happen if GPs were to follow their instincts to protect their families and themselves?

If all GPs over the age of 55 – and especially from a black, Asian and minority ethnic background – were to follow these instincts, they would no doubt refuse to see patients face to face. This would lead to the collapse of the NHS in some areas.

If less vulnerable GPs – especially if they are salaried – were to follow these instincts, they would refuse to cover their shielded colleagues’ face-to-face appointments for fear of the higher viral load they would be exposing themselves to. Again, leading to the collapse of the NHS in some areas.

If GPs in ‘hot hubs’, or working in the ‘hot areas’ of their practice, were to follow their instincts, we would have no symptomatic patients anywhere near primary care, and secondary care would be unable to cope – we would never flatten the curve.

If everyone was to follow their instincts, this pandemic will cause even more suffering

If all GPs were to follow these instincts, they would all refuse to see patients without World Health Organisation standard PPE, there would be no face-to-face appointments whatsoever until Covid has left these shores.

Of course, general practice as a whole won’t allow this to happen to patients. They will continue to see patients – all of whom are potential carriers – face to face, against their instincts to protect themselves and their families.

And most people are refusing to follow these instincts, and have missed funerals, missed seeing their parents and adult children, haven’t set foot outside their house for months because they are shielding. Because if everyone was to follow these instincts, this pandemic will cause even more suffering than it already has.

I know there are some readers who feel this Cummings affair has been overblown. But because Cummings ’followed his instincts’, this has seemingly set a precedent meaning it is fine to travel from an area of high Covid-prevalence to an area of low prevalence if you are ’following your instincts’. And his and the Prime Minister’s implicit definition of ‘exceptional circumstances’ seems to encompass everyone who has a young family but lives away from grandparents – there must be millions in that situation. 

If Cummings stays in post, it makes a mockery of the sacrifices being made by GPs and everyone else.

Jaimie Kaffash is editor of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at