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Monkeypox helpline for London GPs

by Julie Griffiths
20 July 2022

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A monkeypox advice line to help GPs deal with cases of the virus received nearly 100 calls in the first month. 

The line was commissioned by NHS South East London ICS to help GPs in the area access to specialist advice and treatment options.

GPs unsure about whether their patient has monkeypox symptoms can call the hotline to access a specialist who can give immediate advice while the patient is with them.

It launched on 31 May and, by 30 June, the line had received 96 calls from GPs. Of those, 52% of patients were referred to infectious diseases specialists and 48% were dealt with by the GP direct after receiving advice.

As of 18 July, there have been 145 calls to the line, which was set up by telemedicine provider Consultant Connect.

David Reith, director of commissioning strategy at NHS South East London ICS, said the hotline was set up after there were calls for it from a south-east London trust . It wanted to ensure GPs had access to specialist advice and discuss treatment options on monkeypox. 

The trust’s specialists – a combination of infectious disease specialists and HIV consultants – take calls from the GPs on a rota system.

When the GP calls the advice line, it goes to the first consultant on a rota. If that consultant is unable to answer in 15 seconds, the call is diverted to the next consultant on the rota. The process continues until the call is answered – usually in under a minute. The line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The service also allows GPs to send clinical photos to consultants in a secure and GDPR compliant manner.

Latest statistics from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) show that as of 14 July, there were 1,856 confirmed cases in the UK with 1,778 in England.

Three quarters (75%) of the cases in England were in London.

The outbreak has mainly been in gay, bisexual, and men who have sex with men without a history of travel to countries where monkeypox is endemic. 

Mr Reith said improving connectivity between primary and secondary care was critical to improving patient outcomes. He added that the hotline has meant ‘we could connect different parts of the system in a flash’.