- Posted Wednesday March 11, 2020
As I write this, Coronavirus seems to be taking hold across the world and has unfortunately taken its first casualties in the UK. We have gone from thinking that this was possibly all hyped up, to now being genuinely concerned as we prepare for what could happen next.
As we stand at the frontline of healthcare, it’s up to us to have plans in place and be able to react to the ever-changing circumstances. At my practice we have put together a Coronavirus continuity plan and will meet daily to adjust and adapt to any changes as soon as possible.
Sharing Advice with Our Practice Patients
We have been advising patients by phone and text, as well as on our website and on prescriptions, what to do if they think that they have the virus. We have expressed that in such cases, patients must stay at home and phone the surgery. We have placed notices at the door and reception that reinforce this message.
We are also stopping online booking of appointments, and anyone calling with possible Coronavirus symptoms or respiratory conditions will be put on a telephone list and contacted by a GP. Again, if anyone turns up at the reception with a respiratory complaint, they are also told to go home and wait for a call.
Taking Measures to Prevent Infection
Should the situation get worse, we are considering managing all of our appointments into telephone triaging, so no-one slips through the net. Doctors will then decide if patients should come down to the surgery if they have no linked conditions. In the event of someone ignoring this advice and turning up when they may be infected, we have nominated a room where they can be isolated.
We already use an email consultation package and are ensuring all GPs have remote access from home to be able to continue work in some form. We have purchased supplies of masks, gowns and antiseptic wipes and have a clear policy on what we should be doing. We have just received notification that we will also get supplies direct from NHS England. In addition, we have agreed to help and support other practices in the area in the event of a crisis and pool resources to ensure continuity of care.
Managing the Demands of Patients
Whilst situations like this can bring out the best in people it also highlights the worse in people. A patient called asking for an appointment and gave the reason of something unrelated to Coronavirus. When they saw the doctor however, they then said they had been travelling and now have a sore throat and fever.
The doctor did not believe it was Coronavirus but informed the patient of the risk they had taken, saying that if they did have Coronavirus it would have put many people at risk in the surgery and taken clinicians out of service whilst they self-isolated.
Reception is currently under siege - and they have a difficult enough job normally. We are being inundated by patients demanding letters saying they are not fit to travel as they want to cancel going away.
We are not providing such letters if there is no health reason why they cannot travel and obviously this is causing lots of disagreements between patients and reception.
Coping with Increased Demand
Only today I have read about hospitals that are finding gloves and sanitisers missing from across the hospital, again putting staff at risk. Looking forward, nobody really knows what will happen nor is there a timescale for getting this situation under control.
We are all going to be under pressure to cover the increased demand and I would ask that the CQC think about pausing inspections until this is under control, as a visit does involve many hours of preparation that could be better spent on treating the sick, worried and vulnerable.
There is the usual political spin on what is happening, however there does seem to be cross-party support for the action being taken now.
What Does the Future Hold?
Whilst hoping for a quick solution to Coronavirus, we must be prepared for things to get worse before they get better. There have been some reports that the virus may get under control in the summer only to return in the autumn and winter.
I know we will all do our best and handle the situation as well as we can and that is all we can do, as we are now in uncharted territory.
For full information on the actions to take in the case of a suspected case of coronavirus, visit the Public Health England website.
FPM members can also access a Pandemic Flu Policy, Flu Pandemic Contingency Plan, Flu Pandemic Checklist and Flu Pandemic Practice Buddy Guide in our new Pandemic Flu Toolkit.