Changes in the way GP surgeries are run are now being rolled out across Kent and Medway to ensure the safety of staff and patients during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Each primary care network – which are groups of GP surgeries in the same area working together – will be splitting patient care across different sites, meaning the normal primary care needs of patients who have Covid-19 symptoms can be met in a primary care treatment centre, while other premises will aim to remain virus free.

Patients will be referred to a primary care treatment centre, sometimes known as a ‘hot site’, by their GP or via NHS 111; they are not testing centres or a walk-in service.

Although as many patients as possible will be assessed via video and telephone appointments, which will avoid unnecessary risk and travel, there will be occasions when people need to see a clinician face-to-face and the aim of these centres if to assess this cohort of patients. Dr Navin Kumta, GP and Chair of NHS Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said:

“Wherever possible, the primary care treatment centres will be established in an existing clinical building but this will vary across Kent and Medway. In some cases drive through facilities are being set up and buildings such as schools or leisure centres are also being used – providing they meet the criteria we have identified, which includes being easy to deep clean. The aim is to assess and treat patients who have Covid-19 symptoms, such as a persistent cough or a temperature over 37.8 degrees, in a safe setting and ensure patients without symptoms can be seen at the other sites with a minimal risk of infection. This includes the most vulnerable and those self-isolating.” 

​CCG teams are now working with primary care networks to ensure the proposed hot sites meet NHS guidelines, can deliver safe services and that appropriate infection prevention and control measures are in place for patients and staff. Methods of prescribing are also being explored to minimise potentially infectious patients having to visit pharmacies.

Dr Kumta added: “We very grateful to everyone involved who has mobilised so quickly to put the new temporary arrangements in place. By reducing the chance of cross contamination we will make it safer for everyone involved and reduce the pressure on our staff, some are which are having to self-isolate, meaning we have fewer GPs in the surgeries.”

Full details of the locations of each of the primary care treatment centres, as well as opening times, will be available via the GP practices’ websites and once they are operational.