The countries of the UK have begun suspending GP red tape to free up staff to deal with the developing Covid19 outbreak.
In Northern Ireland the quality and outcomes framework was suspended. In Wales the government announced it would be relaxing contract and monitoring arrangements together with some targets. It also announced plans to ensure all GPs are able to use video consultation.
Meanwhile the British government is likely to suspend strict rules for registering deaths and cremations, the Daily Mail reported today. It said the rules had been introduced to help prevent a repeat of the mass murder committed by the GP Harold Shipman, responsible for killing 250 people last century.
UK deaths from the virus began to accelerate over the weekend – with 14 announced in one day. The World Health Organisation has announced that Europe is now the epicentre of the pandemic as Italy and Spain struggle with soaring death rates.
Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething said: “I am choosing to act now before we see a significant surge in demand so that our services can be ready to act. A larger number of people requiring high levels of care is highly likely over the coming weeks.”
Senior GPs welcomed the moves in Northern Ireland and Wales. Dr Alan Stout, chair of the Northern Ireland British Medical Association GP committee, said: “This news will come as a huge relief to practices who have been noticing the strain with increased concern and activity associated with COVID-19. The early and definitive decision by our Health Minister shows an understanding and a determination to deal with the unprecedented situation and we are committed to working with him and his department to ensure safe and effective care to the public in Northern Ireland.”
Dr David Bailey, chair of the BMA Welsh Council, said: “Steps taken, including the relaxation of targets and monitoring arrangements across the health and care system, and the relaxation of contract and monitoring arrangements for primary care practitioners, will mean all efforts are concentrated on caring for the most vulnerable in our communities.”