Key to our success in dealing with the pandemic is the introduction of the NHS Test and Trace strategy

29 May 2020

The College is a charity and therefore apolitical, so I won’t comment specifically on the story that has dominated the headlines this week - but the potential impact on the health of our communities concerns me greatly.

I get the sense that our patients understand the reasons we have been asked to follow such strict measures. Most patients that I speak to are proud of the contribution they are making to the national effort to tackle COVID-19 and in doing so, alleviating pressure on the NHS and saving lives.

I am confident - hopeful - this attitude will prevail.

Key to our success in dealing with the pandemic is the introduction of the NHS Test and Trace strategy.

Its aim is to help ease the national lockdown by targeting individuals who have COVID-19 symptoms and those who have been in contact with them, isolating them and, where necessary, imposing localised lockdowns. 
This strategy represents a long-awaited shift to a community-based approach to tackling the pandemic, which positions the role of general practice in this effort as more important than ever.

We will continue delivering holistic care, seeing patients who have perhaps been indirectly affected by COVID-19 and tackling the inevitable backlog of routine queries that have stored up.

For this reason, we’ve made it clear that it isn’t appropriate for GPs and our teams to do the contact tracing ourselves, though we will have a key role in supporting public health colleagues - and speaking up for our patients to ensure that they are central to any plans.
We are also continuing discussions with NHSX urging that patients’ records are automatically updated with any positive COVID-19 tests. This is something I spoke to the Guardian about this week and I’m hopeful that we will see progress in the next couple of weeks. 

APPG Health

I was invited to the All-Party Parliamentary Health Group this week - a collection of MPs and Peers from different political parties - to speak about the College’s perspective on deferred care as a result of the pandemic. 
Topics covered included cancer referrals, mental health and vaccinations, as well as the interface between primary and secondary care.

It was a great opportunity to speak directly to MPs about COVID-19, its impact on general practice and what we have done to rise to the challenge - and I felt they were receptive to our ideas and concerns.

Care home webinar

Looking after people who live in care homes and keeping them, their carers and our own teams safe has been one of the challenges that will define this pandemic.
The College ran a webinar on providing good practice in care homes during COVID-19 on Wednesday, in conjunction with the Academic Health Science Networks.
The webinar highlighted lots of ideas and useful guidance on how our services can be provided in care homes during the pandemic and examples of collaboration between primary care and care homes. If you couldn’t make it, you can watch it back.

Many thanks to care home manager Anita Astle, GPs Alison Tavare and Gail Allsopp, the College’s Clinical Policy Lead, and Joint Hon Sec, Jonathan Leach, for their work on this.

Don Berwick event

Next Tuesday I have been invited to speak at the ‘Risky Business’ virtual conference for all healthcare professionals on the frontline of care during the pandemic.
I will be interviewed by BBC presenters Charlie Stayt and Katie Derham about the transformation of general practice during COVID-19 and any learning I think have come from it.

I’m looking forward to the opportunity to discuss the rapid and necessary changes general practice has made during the pandemic and how swiftly GPs have responded and adapted to these new ways of working.

I also hope to discuss the future of general practice and how we can retain any positive change and advancements post-pandemic. 
The event will be closed by Professor Don Berwick, President Emeritus at the IHI and former advisor to US President Barack Obama - you may remember he gave one of the stand out addresses at the RCGP's Annual Conference several years ago.

Don will be giving his insights into how COVID-19 could change global healthcare. It is a free and virtual conference, and you can sign up now.

Surveys of potential interest

Finally, whilst I’m a passionate advocate of research in general practice, I’m usually very selective about promoting surveys in this message as I’m well aware of the risk of ‘survey fatigue’.

However, I’m going to make two exceptions this week.
The first looks at PPE as GPs move from remote to face-to-face consultations and is being led by the Division of Primary Care at the University of Nottingham. 
The second is from the British Association of Dermatologists who are collating information on cutaneous signs or complications that are potentially related to COVID-19. 
As always, take care of yourselves and your families and thank you for all you are doing for your patients in these difficult times.

Post written by

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.

Previously he was Director of R&D at the Health Foundation, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England and Director General in the Department of Health, a clinical academic at the University of Manchester and a Harkness Fellow in Healthcare Policy.

He has been a GP for 28 years. He is a fellow of the RCP and FPHM, and was a non-executive director of the Care Quality Commission until 2012.

He has over 200 publications in the field of quality of care and in 2005 he was awarded a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours for Services to Health Care.

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