Plan for suspected coronavirus patients to see their GP by video link

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer
A sign directing patients to a National Health Service 111 Coronavirus Pod. (Getty)

Britons suspected of having coronavirus will be forced to talk to their GP via video link in an attempt to stop the illness from spreading.

A letter to NHS trusts has been published telling them to ramp up their plans for tackling Covid-19, including seeing patients via video link and not in person.

NHS England hope the move will prevent the spread of the infection and will reduce the amount of people at hospitals across the country.

In the letter, NHS strategic incident director Professor Keith Willett and incident director Stephen Groves say acute wards may be used and coronavirus patients should be separated out.

A man on the Jubilee line of the London Underground tube network wearing a protective facemask. (PA)

The document says managers should review critical care and high dependency capacity and consider how it could be increased.

It says: "Where possible, consider implementing alternative models such as remote consultations for those patients who can be supported at home and review arrangements to support vulnerable individuals in alternative settings, including in the community.”

Read more: UK will see deaths from coronavirus, chief medical officer warns

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that "video conference consultations" should be looked at "very seriously" to relieve pressure on the NHS.

The letter sets out that a level 4 NHS incident has been declared - the highest level - and to date, Covid-19 has been managed as an infectious disease through specialist NHS centres.

But it says "it is now appropriate to begin to manage some patients within wider infectious disease units and, in due course if the number of cases continues to grow, we will need to use all acute units”.

Countries with confirmed cases of coronavirus. (PA)

According to the latest Department of Health figures, 51 people in the UK have been diagnosed with coronavirus, although authorities in Scotland confirmed two more cases overnight into Wednesday.

The new Government publicity campaign seeks to drive home the message that regular hand-washing is the single most important action individuals can take in the fight against Covid-19.

It comes the day after the Government launched its "battle plan" to combat the outbreak with a warning that up to a fifth of the UK workforce could be off sick when the virus hits its peak.

The new adverts say hand-washing should be for 20 seconds, using soap and water or hand sanitiser.

Read more: 11 myths and conspiracy theories around coronavirus debunked

The Government "battle plan" sets out possible strategies for delaying the virus spread including school closures, "reducing the number of large-scale gatherings" and encouraging greater home working.

In a worst case scenario, it said up to 80% of the population could become infected, with people hospitalised with pneumonia and a relatively high death rate among the elderly and frail.

Boris Johnson arrives for a press conference with Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty, (centre), and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, to brief the media on the government's coronavirus action plan on Tuesday. (PA)

The document also raises the possibility that at the virus peak, police could switch to dealing with only serious crime and maintaining public order while the military could be drafted in to support the emergency services.

Government scientific experts predict the UK's coronavirus outbreak could last around four to six months.

Read more: Italy could have more than 100,000 coronavirus cases, expert warns

Globally, eight new countries - Andorra, Jordan, Latvia, Morocco, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Senegal and Tunisia - have reported cases of coronavirus since Tuesday.

There are now more than 90,000 cases worldwide with more than 3,000 deaths.

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