Government clarifies how GPs should handle COVID-19 test results

GPs have been reassured they do not need to follow up COVID-19 tests amid confusion triggered by thousands of test results appearing in patient records.

COVID-19 test results added to GP records (Photo: Eva Katalin/Getty Images)
COVID-19 test results added to GP records (Photo: Eva Katalin/Getty Images)

Practices are not required to inform patients of results, take clinical action or inform Public Health England (PHE) when test results pop up in patient records, the government has confirmed.

Middlesex GP Dr Nick Grundy revealed earlier this month that his practice had received over 150 COVID-19 test results that had not been requested by his practice.

Dr Grundy said the tests dated back ‘several weeks’ and had arrived without warning - adding it was unclear whether the results had be acted on. There was also confusion around the orgin of the tests and how they have been processed.

However, the government has confirmed that GPs will not have to process or take action on coronavirus test results added to their IT systems.

A DHSC spokesperson said: ‘On 5 June, GPs were told that results would soon be sent to them [and] they were told clearly that no action would be required on receipt of results.

‘The bulletin said "there will be no need to communicate results to patients, as these will have already been sent to them by text and email; no clinical action will be necessary, as patients will have also received links to national guidance in their text and email, such as requirements on isolation or what to do if symptoms worsen".

COVID-19 testing

‘[It also confirmed] the results will not need to be notified to PHE under the notifiable diseases requirements, as this will have already been done.’

The spokesperson added: ‘We worked with the BMA, RCGP, NHS England and GP IT suppliers to ensure that, as of 12 June, test results started to reach GPs in England about 30 minutes after they’ve been processed.'

In most cases results added to GP patient records will come from 'pillar 2' testing, which includes drive-through centres and home testing kits. More test results are expected to reach surgeries by mid-July.

GPs and politicians have previously criticised the government’s test and trace programme, arguing that general practice could play a vital role at the forefront of testing efforts. At present most GPs are unable to swab patients or directly book them in for tests.

GPs have suggested that the ability to swab patients should be extended to all COVID hot sites, where clinicians are likely to come into contact with symptomatic patients who need to be tested.

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