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GPs to be told to remove social distancing in practices, reports claim

by Costanza Pearce
13 October 2021

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The Government will this week tell GPs to end social distancing requirements in practices so that more patients can be seen face to face, it has been reported.

The move will form part of a package designed to address GP access issues, which is due to be published imminently, claims the Daily Mail .

NHS England and the Government last week promised to set out a ‘package of support’ for GPs tackling GP workload, abuse and low morale, but the details are yet to be revealed.

The Daily Mail last night reported that the health secretary will ‘tear up social distancing in surgeries to finally give thousands more patients face-to-face appointments with their doctor’.

It claimed that new guidance would include scrapping the two-metre social distancing rule in GP practices and relaxing cleaning requirements.

It also claimed that the ‘small minority’ of GPs who resist a ‘return’ to face-to-face appointments will be ‘held to account’ and that Sajid Javid is ‘thought to have considered potential financial sanctions’.

The package will also cut bureaucracy, with hospital staff writing more prescriptions and sick notes for patients, according to the Mail.

Pharmacies could also be asked to support GPs further, including by delivering more vaccinations to ease GP workload, it said.

The Mail claimed the package is a ‘major victory’ for the paper, following its campaign for GPs to see patients face to face as the ‘default’ option – which the BMA last month warned risks further fuelling abuse and violence against practices.

The details of the upcoming package have also been reported in the Telegraph, which has also come under fire for GP-bashing articles.

However, NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) have repeatedly declined to share details of the package with Pulse.

Earlier this week, the DHSC said it is ‘hugely grateful’ to GPs and practice staff for their ‘hard work and dedication’.

But it added that GPs ‘must take the preference of the patient on board and provide face-to-face appointments to those who want them’.

The DHSC has also said it will shortly set out details of investment to support general practice capacity and improve access during the second half of the year.

Meanwhile, the BMA last week warned that any new or updated GP infection control guidance must reflect ‘high Covid levels’ and the size and layout of practice buildings, after the Government said it was considering relaxing infection control guidance for GP practices.

It comes amid the ongoing row over GP access and the provision of in-person appointments, with GPs coming under fire from sections of the mainstream media and some politicians, as well as from patients.

A GP surgery was last week forced to close for two days due to patient abuse.

This month, the BMA launched a survey into general practice’s response to the current abuse and workload crises, asking whether GPs would consider leaving the NHS or handing in undated resignations among other actions.

This story first appeared on our sister title, Pulse.