RCGP demands clarity from Health Secretary on protective equipment for frontline GPs

Publication date: 26 March 2020

Chair of the Royal College of GPs, Professor Martin Marshall has written to Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, demanding urgent clarity for GPs around how and when to use the personal protective equipment they are receiving when seeing patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In his letter, Prof Marshall has written that "COVID-19 is arguably one of the greatest public health challenges of our time, and one that is significantly impacting general practice as well as secondary care." He calls for reassurance that GPs and their teams can be confident they are working safely when seeing patients face to face.

Reflecting feedback from RCGP members about the PPE they have been receiving in their surgeries, Prof Marshall wrote: "GPs across the country have never been more concerned, not just for the safety of themselves and their teams, but for patients too.

"Our members are telling us that their confidence to carry out patient consultations is being impacted by uncertainty over the quality of PPE being supplied to their surgeries. This is particularly relevant for aprons and eye protection, which many believe to be providing inadequate protection. We note that the World Health Organisation recommends that GPs should be using eye protection for consultations, yet most practices do not yet have sufficient access to it and there are outstanding concerns around the use of aprons and whether clinicians should have full body cover when seeing patients."

He continues: "As the situation develops further, GPs will see an increasing number of patients with COVID-19. Whilst many of these patients will have symptoms associated with the virus, there are those who will present asymptomatically, particularly in primary care settings, but could still be infectious. It is therefore vital that urgent clarity is provided as to whether GPs should begin wearing PPE for all face-to-face patient consultations.”"

Finally, Prof Marshall highlights anxiety among the profession as to whether they will "have enough supplies [of PPE], either now or as the crisis deepens."

He states that these issues could all be resolved through clearer guidance for GPs and primary care teams as to how and when they should be using PPE during patient consultations.

Commenting on why he wrote the letter, Prof Marshall said: "We are living and working in unprecedented times – GPs are aware of this and are stepping up to the challenge, and the College recognises that a huge amount of work is ongoing to ensure the NHS will be able to cope with COVID-19. But our members are worried, not just for themselves and their teams but their patients and it’s important that the Government understands their concerns so that they can be rectified.

"We have been encouraged to hear that millions of pieces of PPE have been ordered – and we need to see this making its way to GP practices, as well as hospitals, but we also need clarity about how to most effectively use it, and reassurance that all elements of the PPE we receive is safe."

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7494/7633/7574/7575
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 53,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.

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