CORONAVIRUS - what you need to know
(29 March 2020)
What are the symptoms of Coronavirus?
Stay at home if you have coronavirus symptoms which are either:
- A high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)A new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual).
What do I do if I have symptoms?
Do not visit the Surgery, Pharmacy or Hospital. In the first instance use the
NHS111 Coronavirus advice service online - https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19. Only
telephone 111 if you cannot get help online.
If you have symptoms of coronavirus you will need to stay at home for 7 days.
If you live with someone who has symptoms, you will need to stay at home for 14
days from the day the first person in the home started having symptoms.
If you live with someone who is 70 or over, has a long-term condition, is pregnant or
has a weakened immune system, try to find somewhere else for them to stay for 14
days. If you do have to stay at home together, try to keep away from each other as
much as possible. Read the advice about staying at home by following the link -
In the event that your symptoms are deteriorating quickly with severe shortness of
breath or any other symptoms which normally require a 999 call you must continue
to use the emergency service – it is essential you mention to the 999 team that you
think you might also have corona virus.
Many of our patients and clinical staff will contract the virus. Some will, have a mild
case of flu like symptoms, some will be very ill with high temperatures and incessant
cough and sadly some will be severely unwell requiring medical intervention.
As GPs we advise that you regularly wash your hands with soap and water (please
note special, expensive soaps are not needed), keep your household surfaces clean,
avoid overcrowded environments and seek medical advice early on if you have
Viruses do not respond to antibiotics and hence no acute treatment to get rid of the
virus is available. The main symptoms of high temperature and sometimes a
headache are best treated with paracetamol within the recommended dosage on the
There is a huge amount of information available online. Some of this is useful but
some information is both incorrect and causing panic and fear. As clinicians we are
committed to minimising any fear that this virus causes. With this in mind we will
produce updates for you as things move forward.
What can I do if I don’t have symptoms to minimise the risk?
We are advising those who are at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus
(COVID-19) to be particularly stringent in following social distancing measures. This
group includes those who are:
- aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)
- under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below (ie anyone instructed to get a flu jab as an adult each year on medical grounds):
- chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
- chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
- chronic kidney disease
- chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
- chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), a learning disability or cerebral palsy
- problems with your spleen – for example, sickle cell disease or if you have had your spleen removed
- a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
- being seriously overweight (a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above)
- those who are pregnant
Note: there are some clinical conditions which put people at even higher risk of
severe illness from COVID-19. If you are in this category, in the coming days the NHS in England will directly contact you with advice about the more stringent measures you should take in order to keep yourself and others safe. For now, you should rigorously follow the social distancing advice in full, outlined below.
People falling into this group are those who may be at particular risk due to complex
health problems such as:
- people who have received an organ transplant and remain on ongoing immunosuppression medication
- people with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy or radiotherapy
- people with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia who are at any stage of treatment
- people with severe chest conditions such as cystic fibrosis or severe asthma (requiring hospital admissions or courses of steroid tablets)https://www.asthma.org.uk/advice/triggers/coronavirus-covid-19/#Shielding
- people with severe diseases of body systems, such as severe kidney disease (dialysis).
When will I receive my At Risk Letter?
As advertised in the media, patients who are acknowledged to be in designated At
Higher Risk groups will be receiving a letter indicating their need to self-isolate for 12 weeks.
We are having a considerable amount of calls asking when a letter will be received.
These letters will not be sent from the Practice but centrally and therefore we
currently cannot tell you when you will receive your letter.
What is Social Distancing?
This is a changing situation and it is best to look on the Gov website for info but
general rules are:
- Avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). These symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough
- Avoid non-essential use of public transport when possible
- Work from home, where possible. Your employer should support you to do this. Please refer to employer guidance for more information
- Avoid large and small gatherings in public spaces, noting that pubs, restaurants, leisure centres and similar venues are currently shut as infections spread easily in closed spaces where people gather together.
- Avoid gatherings with friends and family. Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media.
- Use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential Service
Everyone should be trying to follow these measures as much as is practicable
- We strongly advise you to follow the above measures as much as you can and to significantly limit your face-to-face interaction with friends and family if possible, particularly if you:
- are over 70
- have an underlying health condition
- are pregnant
This advice is likely to be in place for some weeks.
Is the Practice Still Open?
Yes the Practice is still open. We are running on reduced staffing due to staff
isolation and distancing, however, we have now moved to telephone triage
appointments first rather than you coming into the surgery in the first instance. The
reason for us not seeing you straightaway isn’t because we don’t want to provide you
with clinical care but to ensure we limit the spread of the virus; we all use the
coordinated process of managing all corona virus suspected patients in the same
way across the country; ensure we protect our clinical team as much as possible so
that we remain able to work and provide care.
Unfortunately our reception team has had to ask people to leave the premises every day and advise people to call back with their queries. When they have done this they have at times been subjected to verbal abuse and unacceptable behaviour from people who think the safety measures we are taking do not apply to them. This puts our staff, as well as any other patients already in the waiting room, at risk.
We can reassure you that we are still accessible to you: we are open and are staffed to deal with your concerns and worries and are grateful to the majority of patients who heed this advice without needing messages written on posters.
If you feel that your problem is urgent and you need to be seen, please call the surgery as you normally would.
Please be aware that when clinicians return your telephone call this will probably be
from a hidden number and therefore you should answer the call. Our clinicians are
experiencing a lot of patients not being available or answering a telephone call when
these are returned.
We will try to contact you on you during a morning or afternoon session and can’t offer precise times. Please be patient we are all trying to do our best.
Please do not be surprised, moving forward, if one of our GPs asks you to undertake
a video consultation with them. This will be via a secure link to your smartphone.
Can I still telephone the Practice?
As you can imagine we are dealing with an inordinate amount of telephone calls
which means there may well be a wait for your call to be answered.
We understand that these are difficult and worrying times. We have been saddened
and dismayed by some verbal abuse our Reception Teams have experienced on the phone and in person this week from a small number of patients. It is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
We are genuinely sorry if you are inconvenience by having to wait a bit longer on the
phone than you usually would or if you have to queue at a pharmacy for a few minutes to collect your medication.
At this time, none of us know how long this disruption is likely to continue for so we
ask that all of our patients are kind to our team. It is a very worrying and stressful
time for them also, some of our team suffer from ill health, some of our team have
young families, they are choosing to work and not self-isolate in order to provide an
essential service and they deserve your respect. Please be patient.
What are you classing as non-urgent routine consultations?
The Practice has made a decision not to undertake any non-urgent work as the
clinicians try to deal with patients affected by the outbreak and those patients
requiring urgent assistance that is not virus related. This includes:
- Routine blood tests
- Routine Health Checks
- Ring pessaries
- Minor Surgery
- Travel vaccinations
- Insurance Reports
- DVLA/HGV Medical Examinations
- Non-urgent paperwork
Can I still order my medications from the surgeries?
Yes you can. We would much prefer if you did this online as it does make it easier to
plan our workload. Please only use the medication line (after 2 pm) to order your repeat medication if you cannot order online.
To set up online ordering go to our website Home page scroll down the page and click on ‘Order Repeat Medication. This will take you to Patient Access where you can Register for an online account if don't already have one.
Once you have set up your account you will need to provide proof of I.D before we can active your account. To do this simply take a photograph or your I.D (passport, driving licence etc) and email it to our practice email address:
Your login details will then be provided to you.
Can I have extra medications as I am self-isolating or just in case I
Please do not ask for medications that you have not taken for many years or
extended periods of medication outside of the current 28 days that we provide on a
repeat prescription basis.
Please do not repeatedly ring to try to talk to a different doctor just in case you may
get a different answer. All our doctors are in agreement with regard to how
medication is provided and the decision will be the same. This simply takes an
appointment away from another patient who may require urgent assistance.
Stockpiling, just in case, will be detrimental to the provision of all medications at a
time when we need to ensure patients receive their medications as they need them.
Should I stop taking my anti-inflammtory medications?
We are aware that concerns have been raised in France about the use of anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs). Some of these such as Ibuprofen and Aspirin
are available over the counter. Others such as Naproxen, Diclofenac, Indometacin,
Mefenamic Acid, Meloxicam, Ketoprofen and Calecoxib etc require a prescription.
There appears to be no evidence that NSAIDs increase the chance of acquiring
coronavirus but concerns have been raised that taking them whilst you have a
coronavirus infection may increase the complications or slow the recovery.
The Government has asked the National Institute for Care and Health Excellence
and part of the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency to review the evidence.
In the interim, patients who have confirmed coronavirus or believe they have
coronavirus should use Paracetamol in preference to an NSAID.
There are shortages in the supermarkets so can I order my
Paracetamol from the Practice?
The demand for Paracetamol on prescription has also increased since the outbreak
of Coronavirus. Paracetamol is available over the counter. If you have not been
prescribed Paracetamol by the Practice for pain or other reason recently then your
clinical need still needs to be reviewed and a decision made on this basis.
I’ve seen on social media that there is an Asthma Rescue Pack
available. Can I have one?
We are aware of social media posts circulating that asthmatics (and even those that
aren’t), will be issued with Rescue Packs of Amoxicillin and steroids if you call the
Practice. This suggestion is incorrect and the decision to use rescue packs (or shelf meds) is only made after careful evaluation for people with severe (brittle) asthma or severe COPD who are under follow up by a Specialist Respiratory Team.
Oral steroids are powerful systemic drugs that can have an immunosuppressant
effect (thus potentially increasing the severity of an infection and the risk of you
passing the infection on to other people) and thus the decision to use them would
rarely be delegated to a patient without careful evaluation.
Please do not contact us asking for rescue packs unless this is something that has
previously been agreed with your medical team and careful instruction how to use
and when has been provided. That would normally still involve discussion with the
medical team where possible before starting.
As you can see, Asthma UK (do not recommend use of rescue packs as a blanket
policy for people with Asthma during the pandemic.
Can I pick up my Prescriptions from Redgate and Somerset Bridge Medical Centres?
To minimise the risk of transmission of the virus ALL prescriptions are being sent to pharmacies electronically. If you haven’t already informed the practice of your nominated pharmacy, to which you want prescriptions to be sent, you will be asked to do so by the practice. If no nominated pharmacy is provided the practice will automatically select either Lloyds Redgate or Jhoots Somerset Bridge pharmacy as your nominated collection point unless you notify us otherwise.
Can you provide me with a sick note for my employer?
We can understand that patients may require sick notes but when dealing with sick
patients and reduced staffing levels this will not be a priority. Patients can self-certify
under current regulations for seven days, beyond this we understand that patients
may well need a sick note from a GP though this may well change in the near future.
Please contact your employer to discuss this in the first instance to see if they truly
need a sick note as we are getting a lot of calls for short sick notes beyond the initial
7 days and this is blocking up phone lines.
We are not able to provide sick notes for people who are self-isolating or isolating as part of a family group so please do not call the practice as this is causing delays in dealing with urgent enquiries. For further information please see the ACAS guidance
If you require a sick note for a non-Covid 19 related illness the practice will post the certificate to you.
Can I come in and pick up my correspondence from the Doctor?
We would prefer it if you didn’t and therefore have taken the decision to post out
correspondence to patients during this time.
Can you provide me with a letter for my insurers to cancel my travel
Unfortunately no. Insurers and travel companies should be basing their decisions to
offer refunds on advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Public
Health England, not letters from GPs. It is not a good use of GPs' time to be writing
letters for patients who are not ill but have plans to travel - and GPs will always base
their decisions on official advice.
Patients will undoubtedly have good and sensible reasons for not wanting to travel to certain places because of the virus, but this is not the same as being unable to travel due to existing illness, and it should not become the GP's responsibility to give patients advice about where not to travel.
How do I manage my anxiety and worry about contracting Coronavirus?
Worry and anxiety are common problems at the best of times, and when it takes over it can become all-encompassing. This Support Guide contains lots of practical advice that you might find helpful.
If you are worried and need to speak to someone please give the surgery a call.
FOR MORE INFORMATION READ OUR SPECIAL EDITION 'CORONAVIRUS' NEWSLETTER
COVID-19 and your information - updated 8th April 2020
(Supplementary privacy notice on Covid-19 for Patients)
This notice describes how we may use your information to protect you and others during the Covid-19 outbreak. It supplements our main Privacy Notice which is available here
The health and social care system is facing significant pressures due to the COvid-19 outbreak. Health and care information is essential to deliver care to individuals, to support health and social care services and to protect public health. Information will also be vital in researching, monitoring, tracking and managing the outbreak. In the current emergency it has become even more important to share health and care information across relevant organisations.
Existing law which allows confidential patient information to be used and shared appropriately and lawfully in a public health emergency is being used during this outbreak. Using this law the Secretary of State has required NHS Digital; NHS England and Improvement; Arms Length Bodies (such as Public Health England); local authorities; health organisations and GPs to share confidential patient information to respond to the Covid-19 outbreak. Any information used or shared during the Covid-19 outbreak will be limited to the period of the outbreak unless there is another legal basis to use the data. Further information is available on gov.uk here and some FAQs on this law are available here.
During this period of emergency, opt-outs will not generally apply to the data used to support the Covid-19 outbreak, due to the public interest in sharing information. This includes National Data Opt-Outs. However in relation to the Summary Care Record, existing choices will be respected. Where data is used and shared under these laws your right to have personal data erased will also not apply. It may also take us longer to respond to Subject Access Requests (SARs), Freedom of Information requests (FOIs) and new opt out requests whilst we focus our efforts on responding to the outbreak.
In order to look after your health and care needs we may share your confidential patient information included health and care records with clinical and non-clinical staff in other health and care providers, for example neighbouring GP practices, hospitals and NHS 111. We may also use the details we have to send public health messages to you, either by phone, text message or email.
During this period of emergency we may offer you a consultation via telephone or video conferencing. By accepting the invitation and entering the consultation you are consenting to this. Your personal/confidential patient information will be safeguarded in the same way it would with any other consultation.
We will also be required to share personal confidential patient information with health and care organisations and other bodies engaged in disease surveillance for the purposes of protecting public health, providing healthcare services to the public and monitoring and managing the outbreak. Further information about how health and care data is being used and shared by other NHS and social care organisations in a variety of ways to support the Covid-19 response is here.
NHS England and Improvement and the NHSX have developed a single, secure store to gather data from across the health and care system to information the Covid-19 response. This includes data already collected by NHS England, NHS Improvement, Public Health England and NHS Digital. New data will include 999 call data, data about hospital occupancy and A&E capacity data as well as data provided by patient themselves. All the data held in the platform is subject to strict controls that meet the requirements of data protection legislation.
In such circumstances where you tell us you’re experiencing Covid-19 symptoms we may need to collect specific health data about you. Where we need to do so, we will not collect more information than we require and we will ensure that any information collected is treated with the appropriate safeguards.
Somerset's Coronavirus Helpline
A single phone number is now available for anyone in Somerset who needs Coronavirus-related support from their councils.
The number, 0300 790 6275, is now live and will make it easier for people access any local authority help they may need, including emotional support, in the current crisis.
It links together the district and county council contact centres and will be operating seven days a week, 8am to 6pm, making it the one number you need to remember for Coronavirus-related enquiries. The district and county councils usual phone numbers will be running as normal alongside the new number for non-Coronavirus related issues.
The new number won’t cover medical advice, for which people will need to continue to use the 111 NHS online service and only ring 111 if they cannot get help online.
Anyone who can’t find help within their own local networks and volunteers, can use the new number to get help and advice around:
- Personal care and support including food and delivery of prescriptions
- Support for the homeless
- Emotional support if you’re feeling worried or anxious
- Transport to medical appointments
- Waste collection and disposal
- Financial support
Callers will be asked to describe the support they require and will be connected with others for resolution.
The 0300 790 6275 number is being staffed by the five councils in Somerset and will be available seven days per week 8am – 6pm.
Meanwhile, the five councils in Somerset are getting in touch with people on their data base that may be vulnerable to see if they need assistance with anything like supplies of food, help with transport and other support.
If people are interested in volunteering for example helping people out with shopping or picking up prescriptions they can go to https://www.corona-helpers.co.uk/ to register.
COVID CHECKER FOR SCHOOLS
Click on the link below to view a simple tool to help parents/carers with some of the possibly confusing ‘when to/when not to’ self-isolate decisions.
Checker for Schools
ADVICE FOR ASTHMA SUFFERERS
Asthma UK has some very useful advice for asthma sufferers during the COVID-19 outbreak. For more information click here.
FAMILY MATTERS - SUPPORT AVAILABLE
Ups and downs of family life can be magnified during a time of crisis like the current COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak, and there are support services there for anyone, parent or child, who is struggling, as well as those who simply want more information. Click here or go to our Family Matters page for details of resources and organisations that can provide support to you and your family.
COVID-19 Sick Note Requests
From 20th March 2020, NHS 111 now have the facility for patients to obtain an official isolation note to give to their employers instead of a sick note (MED3). If you need an isolation note, please follow the link below and also read the letter from the practice regrading sick notes. This can also be given to employers if necessary.
Re: Coronavirus and Requests for Doctor’s Notes (Med3)
Dear Patient and/or Employer,
The Government’s rules around issuing a sick note (Med3) are that a medical professional can only issue a Med3 when an individual has had more than seven continuous calendar days off sick due to an illness (including weekends).
For any period of illness less than seven days, you are able to complete a selfcertification certificate and provide this to your employer. A SC2 form can be downloaded from the internet. In the unlikely event that your employer does not accept a self-certification then your doctor may be able to issue a private sick note for which you may get charged.
Below is the address where this form can be downloaded:
In light of the current Coronavirus situation, it is inevitable that a number of employees may be required to quarantine themselves at home, for example due to the nature of recent travel, or because other members of the household are showing symptoms even in the absence of any symptoms of an illness in the employee. In these cases, GPs will not be abIe to issue a sick note as the time off work is not due to an illness, and isn’t affecting your ability to work, but rather is a precaution to avoid transmission of any illness that is yet to produce symptoms.
We therefore expect your employer to be sympathetic if you are required to selfisolate for 14 days and to understand that the reason for this is to protect the welfare of your work colleagues and the wider community. You can now go line using the link below in order to obtain an isolation note from the NHS 111 website:
ACAS have also published guidance for employees and employers which can be referred to below:
Whilst we appreciate this may cause some difficulties between you and your employer, equally GPs have a responsibility to prioritise the assessment and management of the healthcare needs of patients who are acutely unwell, rather than spending time dealing with requests for sick notes, particularly when they aren’t in a position to issue one.