Briefing: Primary care providers and the coronavirus (COVID-19) The NHS and Public Health England (PHE) are well prepared for outbreaks of new infectious diseases. The NHS has put in place measures to ensure the safety of all patients and NHS staff while also ensuring services are available to the public as normal.
The approach being taken by the NHS is to identify potential cases of COVID-19, isolate them and then contain the virus. This model is devised to protect primary care, the ambulance service and our emergency departments so they can operate as usual and assist the sickest patients. What is the advice to patients and the public?
The advice to the public is to call NHS 111 now if they have been: • to Wuhan or Hubei Province in China in the last 14 days (even if they do not have symptoms) • to other parts of China, including Macau and Hong Kong, in the last 14 days and have a cough, high temperature or shortness of breath (even if it’s mild) • to Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Republic of Korea or Malaysia in the last 14 days and have a cough, high temperature or shortness of breath (even if it’s mild) • in close contact with someone with confirmed coronavirus.
Anyone who meets the above criteria is advised not to go to a GP surgery, community pharmacy or hospital. Instead they should call NHS 111, stay indoors and avoid close contact with other people.
Information for the public is available at nhs.uk. If they are identified as a possible COVID-19 case, NHS 111 will not refer them to a GP or community pharmacy.
However, if someone calls NHS 111 and is assessed against the clinical pathway and they are not a possible COVID-19 case, for example they have not recently travelled to any of the affected areas or been in close contact with a confirmed case, NHS 111 would handle their call as normal.
This may mean referring them to a GP, pharmacist or dental practice, based on patient need.