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NHS signals the launch of second phase of Covid-19 response in General Practice

The NHS Executive has written to all practices to advise of the implementation of the second phase of its response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which includes support for shielded patients, care homes and increasing referrals of cancer patients to secondary care.

In their letter from 29th April, Sir Simon Stevens and Amanda Pritchard (NHS Chief Operating Officer) expressed their gratitude for the way that NHS Trusts, urgent care, community services and primary care GP practices have responded to the emergency;

“This has largely been possible as a result of the unparalleled commitment and flexibility of NHS staff, combined with the public’s ‘social distancing’ which remains in place to cut the spread of the virus.”

The response from the NHS has been augmented by over 10,000 returning health professionals, which included 27,000 student nurses, doctors and other health professionals starting their NHS careers early and 607,000 NHS volunteers.

Coronavirus – are BAME population at higher risk?

Recent data suggests that people from black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are disproportionately affected by covid-19 and that PHE are investigating and have recommended risk-assessment of BAME staff who are at a high risk of exposure to covid-19. This follows recent press coverage that there was a higher incident of deaths among BAME health professionals and patients, with more tan 70% of healthcare professionals who died in the UK from ethnic minority backgrounds.

One theory is that they are more concentrated in public-facing jobs such as transport and delivery as well as social and health care, putting them at greater risk of exposure to the virus. At one of the daily Coronavirus updates, Sir Patrick Vallance, the NHS Chief Scientists, said that the UK has already commissioned several studies to investigate the high incidents of covid-19 in ethnic minorities, but there are no clear reasons at present.

Second Phase Action Plan for GP Practices

Advice from the SAGE group (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) has advised this second phase will include;

  • Infection Prevention control especially with covid patients.
  • Continued procurement of PPE
  • Increase in testing for NHS staff and vulnerable patients

The testing will include all non-elective inpatients at admission, pre-admission testing of elective patients, testing before discharge to care homes and expanded testing for NHS staff.

The assessment also notes there will be an increased demand for patient after-care and support in the wider community services, mental health and primary care.  Employers also get the go-ahead to complete any halted recruitment, inductions and top-up training within the next two weeks for all prospective “returners”.

Expect to see increased demand for covid aftercare and support in community services, primary care and mental health. GP practices should continue to contact high-risk patients with ongoing care needs, including shielded patients to make sure they are getting the care and medication necessary.

There will be an increase in non-covid19 urgent services over the next 6 weeks, and all organisations have been asked to work with local systems and regional teams to assess their capacity for some routine non-urgent elective care.

They set out their actions for urgent, and routine care, covering actions for cancer treatments, maternity, community and mental health services as well as actions for primary care;

  • Improved patient information on accessing GP services and appointments
  • Implementing video consultations
  • Proactively contact high-risk patients to ensure they are getting (or have access to) the treatment and support they need
  • Utilise an NHS package of support for care homes through community and primary care collaboration
  • Make two-week wait cancer, urgent and routine referrals to secondary care as normal, using ‘advice and guidance’ options where appropriate.
  • Deliver as much routine and preventative work as can be provided safely including vaccinations immunisations, and screening.

The full details can be found here 

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