General practice will not be able to cope with a second wave of Covid-19 unless urgent measures are put in place to allow them to operate safely through the winter.
According to the British Medical Association, GP practices in England do not have the capacity to carry out all of the work required of them while managing the ongoing care of patients, reconfiguring services and dealing with the backlog of care put on hold during the first wave of the pandemic.
In a new paper, the BMA’s GP England committee is proposing a series of measures to support practices so that they are able to deliver care to patients and protect their staff during a second wave this autumn and winter.
The measures allow practices to continue digital triage and consultations while ensuring there is always the option of a face-to-face appointment when clinically necessary.
Suspension of routine CQC inspections is needed during winter
This includes ensuring practices receive all the resources they need by expanding the Covid Support Fund and extending it until March 2021 and providing equipment to facilitate home working and working in different settings.
There also needs to be funding for structural changes to surgery buildings to allow for enhanced social distancing and infection control to protect both patients and the workforce.
A suspension of routine CQC inspections and a reduction in bureaucracy is also recommended.
Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee England chair, said: “With the UK recording a record number of daily Covid cases yesterday, GPs, like all doctors, are extremely concerned that without decisive action now services will be overwhelmed if we see another spike in the coming weeks and months.
“This means giving practices and the profession all they need – whether that’s an occupational health service similar to that already freely available to hospital workers so that staff get the vital risk assessments needed to protect them, or funding to extend surgery buildings to ensure social distancing and infection control measures are maintained, keeping patients and staff safe.
“The measures we’ve outlined are aimed at supporting practices and their staff to deliver high quality care while managing the increased pressures of doing so during a pandemic, and it is vital that the Government and NHS England listens and implements these urgently to ensure that primary care can continue to operate safely through what looks to be an incredibly difficult winter.”