In order to prevent spread and reduce demand on practices, there are several measures practices can take to reduce footfall.
- Move to total triage for all patient contacts.
- All routine appointments (provided by all healthcare staff) to be converted into telephone triage appointments or remote assessment (could be online via forms/video), with appropriate follow-up provided at the practice if clinically required.
- Convert all online booking slots into online bookable slots for telephone triage where possible. If not possible, disable the functionality and triage through another route.
- All fit notes/letters requested to be sent electronically. Failing that, they will need to be posted to the patient. Patients must not be encouraged to pick them up from practice. Evidence for COVID-related absence from work will be provided by NHS 111 or will be waived by the employer.
- In England, electronic prescribing is the default method of prescriptions. Patients who do not have a nominated pharmacy should be asked to do this. If rarely paper is required, then it must be collected by the pharmacy. Pharmacies to limit visits to the practice and arrange set visiting time.
- Electronic repeat dispensing should be increased, and practices should not be prescribing more than would normally be prescribed (this might seem perverse but will assist with medication supply).
- Any patients with long term conditions that are concerned about a deterioration in their condition to contact the surgery for telephone or online assessment.
Read more about practices working in hubs.
PPE (personal protective equipment)
Practices, whilst trying to meet the needs of their patients, should also protect their workforce.
All those carrying out face-to-face consultations should have appropriate PPE.
No face-to-face consultation should take place with potentially COVID-infected patients if there is no adequate PPE.
We are working with NHS England and other stakeholders to get the necessary PPE to primary care providers as soon as possible.
In Scotland, additional supplies for practices can be arranged as and when required through your board’s single point of contact for PPE.
It is wholly understandable that we will be anxious for the safety of our families and friends, our colleagues at work and for ourselves. I have no doubt that we will do the best we can to maintain and deliver services to our patients, but this is going to be very difficult and will mean us working in very different ways.Richard Vautrey, GPC England chair
GP practices need to avoid crowding and minimise opportunities for the virus to spread by maintaining a distance of at least two metres between individuals wherever possible.
Some options might include:
- reducing the number of people in waiting rooms
- spacing out chairs in waiting rooms/staff rooms
- marking off a two metre area around reception and other contact points
- where it is feasible, placing plexiglass barriers at points of regular interaction, such as at reception
- the use of laptops and remote access to practice systems enabling home working for staff
- continued use of telephone and video consulting.
Limiting the spread of coronavirus
GP practices should help reduce the spread of coronavirus by reminding everyone working or visiting the premises of the Government’s public health advice, by the use of posters, leaflets and other materials.
Employees and patients should be reminded to wash their hands for 20 seconds more frequently than normal, while practice staff should frequently clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched regularly.
Where it is not possible to maintain a safe distance (such as in small consulting rooms) practices should consider the use of appropriate PPE for staff and patients.