COVID-19 - RCGP briefing on Coronavirus Bill

22 March 2020

The Coronavirus Bill will introduce measures, reviewed every 6 months for 2 years, aims to introduce measures across the government that will help it respond to effects of the virus. This includes measures to ease burdens on frontline NHS staff, help for staff to return to work without financial penalty and admin saving measures. 

The RCGP is a membership body of over 53,000 GPs in the UK, that was established to encourage, foster and maintain the highest possible standards in general practice.

We support much of the content within the Coronavirus Bill which seeks to enable the UK to manage the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there are some concerns that still need to be addressed across the UK by the government and relevant health bodies.

Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)

It is essential that healthcare professionals working on the frontline in the battle against COVID-19 have the access they need to Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). We have heard reports across the country of inadequate PPE protection which puts clinicians at risk of contracting the virus themselves and thus being unable to care for patients. Safe, quality protection equipment with clear guidelines for health professionals to see patients without fear of transmission of any infection to or from a patient, should be urgently prioritised. This would instill confidence in medical professionals to carry on providing high-quality patient care at a hugely stressful time.

Support for GPs and their teams

The RCGP would like to see priority and expedited COVID-19 testing for general practice staff and their families. This is essential to ensuring that we can keep staff active and working on the frontline as the situation develops. GP practices will find it increasingly difficult to effectively plan care and deliver services if staff are isolating, possibly unnecessarily.

As the crisis develops, adequate support for staff wellbeing in terms of medicine, guidance and mental health support will become ever more important. This is an especially distressing time for frontline clinicians and it is crucial we are caring for the people who care for us. The RCGP has published its own resources to support GPs.

Workforce planning

The RCGP is supportive of measures to return GPs to the workforce where possible and we are pleased to see that a significant number of healthcare professionals across the system have expressed an interest in returning to practice. We look forward to working closely with the Government and relevant bodies to ensure that training and induction of returnees is effective. It is crucially important that there is adequate capacity within the system to ensure returners are fully up to speed on relevant processes, particularly difficult during a busy time. It is also important that no clinician is asked to practice without adequate support and supervision.

There must be a sufficient number of clinical staff to handle extra patients discharged into the community due to relaxed measures for discharge to release beds. We believe that discharging patients to free up space for new cases is a sensible and proportionate measure, but this will put more strain on primary and community care and there must be infrastructure and support in place for this to take place.

Use of Technology

We support calls for health and technology firms to help practices in ensuring they have necessary equipment in place to undertake remote consultations, however it is crucial that clear guidance and ongoing IT support is provided to practices where remote consulting technology may malfunction, to ensure these services can be provided continuously and smoothly to manage the high volume of patients. Some of our feedback suggests GPs still urgently need effective VPN software - which does not overwhelm and crash their servers – the relevant clinical system software and Microsoft 365.It is our understanding that only one company currently provides VPN connection to GP practices from home.

It is worth noting that remote consulting is a sensible measure for initial contacts and for appointments booked online, however these types of consultations have limitations and won’t be suitable for all patients so there will need to be some degree of flexibility. We have called for a significant proportion of emergency funding to be allocated to general practice to ensure all GPs and their teams have the high-quality technology needed to undertake remote consultations.

Continuity of work

Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, general practice will continue to see patients with conditions aside from Coronavirus. Business as usual must be supported to continue, this includes childhood vaccinations, cancer detection and regular dispensing of essential medicine.

We are pleased to see measures laid out that the state will indemnify health professionals on extra COVID-19 related work, we hope that this will be the same for returning professionals who are stepping in to help the service.

Contact us

RCGP members can email our dedicated Covid-19 inbox with feedback and questions.


Latest updates

Have a look at our dedicated Covid-19 page;for the latest news, updates and resources.

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