The Royal College of GPs has commented ahead of current plans to ease COVID-19 restrictions on 19 July
Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “As social distancing restrictions are eased later this month, it’s inevitable that we will face an increase in the number of people being infected with COVID-19 – the health secretary himself has suggested we will potentially see 100,000 new cases a day. This will have significant implications for general practice, the wider NHS, and public health in general.
“We understand the drive to return to normal as soon as possible. And as GPs, who are at the forefront of caring for patients whose physical and mental health has been directly and indirectly impacted by lockdown restrictions, we see both sides of the argument.
“But the safety of patients, and those delivering their care, must be paramount. This is why we are calling for the continued use of masks, and other appropriate infection control measures, in general practice settings post-19 July. We believe this is a reasonable and proportionate response to rising case numbers. It is also essential that the government produces clear guidance encouraging the public to continue to behave cautiously and use masks in crowded public places, where appropriate.
“It should not be forgotten that much is unknown about the long-term impact of COVID-19. GPs and our teams are at the forefront of delivering physical and psychological support to an increasing number of patients suffering with long-term symptoms of the virus. Many report that they did not initially have a severe reaction to the virus. The easing of restrictions, and rising infection numbers as a result, means that more patients may suffer from symptoms consistent with ‘long-COVID’, which will have long-term implications for the nation’s health.
“GPs and our teams are already working under intense workload and workforce pressures, making record numbers of patient consultations as well as delivering around two thirds of the COVID vaccination programme. In the face of rising case numbers, we need clarity on how GPs should be expected to prioritise their workload and ensure effective infection control in primary care settings – as COVID, given our enhanced understanding of the virus.”