Ebola outbreak: GPs given systematic guidance on handling potential cases

Staff across the country issued with step-by-step guides

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Staff at GP practices around the country have been provided with step-by-step guidance on handling patients suspected of having Ebola.

The advice, which comes from the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), aims to minimise the risk of infection to healthcare workers and other patients.

Although the UK is considered to be at low risk from Ebola, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has warned the country to expect “a handful” of cases by Christmas.

Any patient arriving at a GP surgery with a possible case of Ebola will be asked to go to an isolation room, and will be assessed by the duty doctor over an internal telephone system.

If Ebola is still considered a possibility, GPs are asked to alert an infectious disease specialist at their local hospital, and to warn local public health protection teams.

The guidance, which has been issued in the form of index cards, has been tailored for each individual member of staff at GP practices including receptionists, call handlers, duty doctors and practice managers.

 

If follows up on Ebola guidance issued by Public Health England to GP surgeries and walk-in centres in October, which warned that GP practices may have to be temporarily closed if patients showing symptoms of bleeding, vomiting or diarrhoea are suspected of having Ebola. 

Receptionists are advised to ask patients displaying symptoms of fever, headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhoea or abnormal bleeding whether they have been abroad in the past 21 days, and whether they have been to West Africa.

Patients who answer yes will be asked to go to an isolation room. In the event that Ebola is not suspected until the patient is inside a GP’s consulting room, they may be asked to remain there until given the all clear, or taken to hospital by paramedics in protective clothing.

While in isolation, patients will be asked to take their own temperature with a thermometer.

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The threat of Ebola to the UK remains low (Getty Images)

In Public Health England’s guidance, GPs are told that isolation rooms and toilets that may have been visited by an Ebola patient should not be used again until assessed by the local Health Protection Team.

If the patient’s symptoms were limited to fever, then bleach can be used to disinfect “high contact surfaces” such as door handles and touch screens, the PHE advice says.

However, if the Ebola patient was bleeding, vomiting or had diarrhoea while in the surgery, then the building would be closed for risk assessment and decontamination by specialists, and a record kept of all people who were in the surgery at the same time as the patient.

“The threat of Ebola to the UK remains low but GPs and practice staff are on the front line of dealing with contagious diseases and they need to be fully aware of what steps to take in order protect patients and themselves, should an incident or potential incident arise,” said Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the RCGP.

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