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Some patients told to contact GP practices for Covid treatments due to new guidance

by Jess Hacker
5 January 2022

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Patient enquiries about Covid treatments may increase in the coming months, new guidance has warned.

This comes after some patients have been told to contact their GP practice if they are eligible for Covid treatments but have not been automatically informed by the NHS.

This may happen when ‘the NHS does not hold good information centrally’ or when a patient has only very recently had a diagnosis or started treatment, according to new Government guidance.

However, it added that most patients will receive a letter from the NHS confirming their eligibility for new treatments. 

NHS England has warned practices this new guidance could ‘heighten interest’ in Covid treatments and vaccines.

In a letter sent to practices (4 January), NHSE informed staff that the Government has provided new guidance for people whose immune system means they are at higher risk of serious illness.

It asked staff to ‘be aware of the advice as part of your general care’, adding that the relevant patients are likely to be alerted to the guidance via media reports.

In particular, NHSE told staff the guidance ‘may also heighten interest in new treatments and vaccination for those who are immunosuppressed’, and suggested staff familiarise themselves with the relevant available information.

Eligible patients

Currently, new treatments for Covid-19 are available through the NHS for people aged 12 and over, who have tested positive, and who are at highest risk for serious illness ‘despite being vaccinated.

This includes some people who have:

  • Down’s syndrome
  • Rare conditions affecting the brain or nerves, including multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease, Huntington’s disease or myasthenia gravis
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Some cancers
  • HIV or AIDS
  • A severe liver condition, such as cirrhosis
  • Chronic kidney disease (CKD) stage 4 or 5
  • Had an organ transplant
  • Certain autoimmune or inflammatory conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease
  • A condition or treatment that makes you more likely to get infections
  • Had certain types of chemotherapy in the last 12 months
  • Had radiotherapy in the last 6 months.

It comes after NHSE England urged practices to identify and contact groups of patients who are not captured in NHS Digital national datasets and will not be automatically contacted.