The Government is looking at bringing shielding GPs ‘back to work’ in practices, the clinical adviser to the chief medical officer has said.
Dr Nisha Mehta said work is ongoing to draw up advice to practices which would make them safe for their return when the shielding programme pauses from 1 August.
GPs with the conditions listed on the shielded patient list had been advised to work from home with ‘all possible support in place’.
Dr Mehta said the ongoing work will clarify what makes a workplace ‘Covid-secure’ – including GP practices.
Speaking in NHS England’s most recent live webinar for GPs, she said: ‘The work position [for shielding patients] is effectively the same advice as for those in the wider clinically vulnerable group, which is to work at home if at all possible and if not possible and people are having to go back to the workplace then that needs to be Covid-secure. There are definitions around that which the Health and Safety Executive and others have been working on.
‘There are a lot of questions about GPs who are shielding getting back to work [and] a lot of live conversations going on with the Faculty of Occupational Medicine, RCGP and others to try and make sure we’re in a good place with regard to guidance on that before the first of August.’
She added that the summer is a ‘window of opportunity’ for all those who have been shielding to return to ‘some kind of normality’ before a ‘potential second peak’ of coronavirus.
Dr Mehta told GPs: ‘[We’re] conscious that with the autumn and winter and a potential second peak coming our way – hopefully not but [we’re] aware that that may well happen – that this is our window of opportunity over the summer where the incidence is a lot lower to try and encourage our shielding patients to take some careful time out of the house and start to get back to some kind of normality.’
Last month, the 2.2 million people who have been deemed extremely vulnerable to serious illness or death from Covid-19 were told they could quit shielding from 1 August, while the guidance would be significantly relaxed from 6 July.
However, the shielding list will be retained and kept up-to-date for the event of a new virus spike, with GPs and specialists being asked to rewrite the list based on a new risk prediction tool being developed by the University of Oxford and NHS Digital.
Last week, Management in Practice’s sister publication, Pulse, revealed that this reworked shielding list could be significantly expanded as evidence has emerged to show those with hypertension, CVD and diabetes have a high risk of severe illness or death from Covid-19.