Commenting on COVID-19 testing, Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “As children go back to school and we approach what is set to be a hard winter, it’s vital that GPs and our teams are prioritised for COVID-19 testing. A lack of access to testing is already impacting on capacity in general practice, as staff isolate whilst awaiting results, and the care that can be delivered to patients.
“We also want to see GPs having access to tests for patients who have a clinical need – currently the only alternative is to refer them to Test and Trace. This will help us to differentiate between COVID-19 and other potentially serious conditions.
“This is not to say that GPs and our teams should be a replacement for a centralised testing system, which is greatly needed. If patients with symptoms of Covid-19 or people at risk of infection start attending GP appointments as a first port of call, it risks compromising infection control measures that have been put in place and has the potential to further spread the virus.
“Without sufficient capacity and resources, it would also risk overloading general practice, which is already pressurised with consultation rates back to pre-pandemic levels and GPs and our teams preparing to deliver the largest ever flu vaccination programme and for a potential second wave.
“Ultimately, Test and Trace logistics and capacity must urgently improve in order to efficiently help tackle COVID-19 – and work needs to be done to restore public confidence in the system. Many GPs have reported to the College that they are being inundated with queries from patients about testing who are struggling to access a test or having to travel miles to get one – the workload implications of which are significant, particularly as there is nothing GPs can do to help.”