Ebola advice from NHS 111 must be 100% accurate, warns GPC

Advice given to potential Ebola patients by NHS 111 must be '100% correct' if the service is to be used to assess whether callers may have the disease, GPC chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul has warned.

Ebola: warning over NHS 111 advice (Photo: Science Photo Library)
Ebola: warning over NHS 111 advice (Photo: Science Photo Library)

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced earlier this week that the non-emergency 111 phone line would be used to triage possible Ebola cases.

Mr Hunt said callers reporting possible Ebola symptoms such as vomiting or respiratory problems would be asked about their travel history, and those who had visited an affected country would be assessed by ambulance staff using protective equipment.

But Dr Nagpaul said the GPC would want to be assured that advice from call handlers was fit for purpose to ensure that patients were given correct advice.

‘The last thing we want is for callers to NHS 111 not to be given correct advice and then visit their GP or A&E inappropriately,’ he said.

Advice must be accurate

‘We have had issues with NHS 111 before and we would want to be absolutely certain that any advice was 100% correct before it becomes any sort of default provider of advice.’

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt also told the House of Commons on Tuesday that GP receptionists and hospitals will receive advice on how to treat suspected Ebola cases, but he made no mention of general practice clinical staff.

Public Health England (PHE) issued primary care advice in August via area teams for patients who had travelled to Ebola virus areas within the previous 21 days.

On its website, the BMA says the PHE guidance is ‘inappropriate for general practice, as there should be no physical contact with the patient at all’.

But Dr Nagpaul said the BMA’s own adaptation of the PHE guidance was simply intended to make it clearer for GPs and practice staff.

The BMA’s own steps for practices to follow, adapted from the PHE guidance, instruct GPs to isolate the patient and call 999 if there is a history of symptoms suggestive of fever, if viral hemorrhagic fever is suspected.

Ebola advice

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