General practice should prepare to be inundated with patients suffering from long-term effects of the pandemic – and institute permanent triage arrangements, a report warns today.
According to the Royal College of GPs, practices will need a “systematic” approach to identify patients who need primary care support. Problems will be both physical and emotional as patients recover from physical damage from the virus and adjust to the effects of severe illness or enforced isolation. The college report calls for more funding for general practice together with a government commitment to maintain the reductions in red-tape and regulation implemented during the pandemic.
The report states: “As we look to the post-COVID landscape, there is a compelling case for general practice retaining total triage in order to better flex how consultations are delivered according to the needs and preferences of patients.”
College chair Professor Martin Marshall said: “COVID-19 will leave a lingering and difficult legacy and it is GPs working with patients in their communities who will be picking up the pieces. The pressures in general practice prior to the pandemic have been well documented by the College but we are now gearing up for the wave of new pressures coming our way as a direct result of COVID-19. There will be a significant influx of patients with lingering long COVID illness, both physical and emotional – and GPs must have the necessary resources and support to care for patients and help them come to terms with and readjust to the aftermath.”
He added: “The way in which GPs and their teams have responded to the crisis has been remarkable and despite the numerous challenges that COVID-19 has presented, we have seen positive changes in general practice as a result of the advancements in technology and the reduction in contractual and regulatory compliance. The temporary suspension of the Quality Outcomes Framework, practice inspections, and greater flexibility in the appraisal cycle during the pandemic have enabled GPs to invest their time and expertise where it is most needed – frontline care for patients.”
* The British Medical Association today warns of a “perfect storm” in mental health as the legacy of the pandemic combines with an economic down-turn and the disruption in care. It points out that its own surveys show 45% of doctors reporting stress, exhaustion and burn-out. It says that now is the time for the Government to promise to double spending on mental health and to develop a cross-government strategy on public mental health.
Its mental health policy lead Dr Andrew Molodynski said: “COVID-19 has meant a sudden and stark change in the way people live their lives but as we return to some semblance of normality, we are faced with the longer-term impact this pandemic will have on mental health. Our mental health services were already on the backfoot – under resourced and under-funded – which makes the prospect of coping with the potential avalanche in demand extremely concerning.”