COVID-19 is a GP crisis too

11 March 2020

I overheard someone this week saying that coronavirus had 'replaced Brexit' as our national obsession.

Justifiably so - and credit where it's due to the Government for its handling of the crisis so far.

The media, however, are focusing largely on the pressures on hospitals and NHS 111 (and its equivalents). GPs must not become the 'hidden frontline' in this crisis, especially when practice teams are still doing the 'business as usual' of seeing over 1 million patients a day while everything is going on.

The College Officers and I have been doing the rounds of the television studios to call for appropriate support for GPs and get across the message that, at times like this, it's general practice that keeps the NHS standing upright. 

Martin Marshall interviewed on College Green

Whilst no-one can complain about a dearth of information in general, it tends to be very generic and doesn't adequately address the specific needs of primary care, and GPs are becoming increasingly desperate for the right type of information.

Through my weekly e-newsletter to members, I have been asking GPs to let me know of any issues you might be experiencing in your practices and any gaps in the current protocols.

Thank you to everyone who has responded so far - your feedback is providing the College with really useful intelligence that we are using in our conversations with the relevant authorities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. So far, we've been able to escalate issues around PPE supplies, and GP concerns around different ways of carrying out patient consultations by telephone or video in the event that patients and practice teams have to self-isolate.

We are expecting the Government to look at areas such as regulation, appraisals and GP contractual obligations - and what general practice can feasibly STOP doing as things escalate.

So far, the public seem to be largely heeding the advice but things are changing very rapidly, and it makes no sense to spend valuable time on the administrative burdens of the day job when, now more than ever, we need to focus on frontline patient care.

Please keep your questions coming as they're also helping us populate our COVID-19 FAQs on the website. We have convened a group of GP experts on emergency preparedness to answer these and are also bringing together helpful material from elsewhere to make this the 'go to' resource for GPs.

We understand that many of you will have your own caring responsibilities or problems with your own health, but general practice can always be relied on to rally in a crisis.

GPs are experts in managing uncertainty, but this is unchartered territory and the College is keen to do everything we can to keep you, your families, and your patients safe in these challenging times.

Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of RCGP Council

Martin Marshall is a GP in Newham East London and Professor of Healthcare Improvement at UCL, Programme Director for Primary Care at UCLP Partners. He leads Improvement Science London, an initiative to promote and embed the science of improvement across the health service and academic sectors. He is immediate past Vice Chair (External Affairs) of the RCGP.

Contact us

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

Email: Covid19@rcgp.org.uk

Latest updates

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

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