GPs in Southwark start new ways of working to tackle Coronavirus

Patients in Southwark who are ill with suspected Covid-19 and need to see their GP or practice nurse, but can’t travel in their own car, will be the first in London to be able to use a new black cab service to take them to one of two new dedicated Covid-19 community centres.

Southwark’s GPs have been working together to come up with new models of care for patients who need to see a GP or nurse for a face to face appointment. The black cab scheme was the brainchild of Southwark GP, Dr Gavin McColl, who realised that black cabs have the advantage of having a sealable screen between the driver and passenger and can be easily disinfected between passengers. The cabs will take patients to one of two Covid-19 community centres in Southwark, which are due to start operating this week.

The new scheme is provided by the taxi hailing platform, GETT and can scale up as needed. The plan is to roll it out in Lewisham and Lambeth and other London boroughs. The NHS will fund the service as by using it, patients who do not have their own car, reduce the risk to the general population.

Dr McColl said: “London’s black cab drivers are keen to do all they can to help in this crisis and we are very pleased to be working with GETT and the London Taxi Drivers’ Association to put this in place. Not all patients will be able to safely transport themselves to the Covid-19 community treatment centres and we need to ensure that we reduce the spread of the disease.”

Southwark’s GP practices have been working hard to change the way they operate to deal with the expected increase in demand for primary care in the next few weeks. The main change is that there will be two Covid-19 community centres in Southwark, one in the north of the borough and the other in the south. These centres will be used to see patients who have been referred by their GP and are ill with suspected Covid-19 symptoms. Staff working there will have full PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).

The other GP practices in the borough will continue to work together to see patients remotely by video or telephone conference and where necessary, ensure that patients who need to physically see a GP or nurse can do so at GP sites around the borough. Essential home visits, for example for patients receiving palliative care, will be carried out by GPs and the GP out of hours service, SELDOC working together.

Dr Rob Davidson, a Southwark GP and clinical lead for South East London CCG said: “By working together, we can make the best use of our staff, resources and buildings to ensure that we can provide care for patients with Coronavirus as well as for patients who have illnesses unrelated to Covid-19.”

“We have rapidly developed our ability to assess and manage patients remotely which means patients who do need GP or nurse advice can still access this without putting themselves or others at risk of spreading the virus.”

For patients this means that they should still follow the national guidance which is:

If you have a new cough and fever

If you have symptoms that may be due to Coronavirus, a fever (over 37.8 degrees) or new continuous cough. You should stay at home and avoid close contact with other people for at least 7 days – people you live with will need to self-isolate for 14 days. Do not book a GP appointment but do use the 111 coronavirus service.

Urgent medical help

If you need urgent medical help, use the NHS 111 online service.

The 111 online service asks questions about your symptoms to help you get the help you need.

Call 111 if you need urgent help for a child under 5 or cannot get help online.

If you need help or advice not related to coronavirus:

  • for health information and advice, use the NHS website or your GP surgery website
  • for urgent medical help, use the NHS 111 online service – only call 111 if you’re unable to get help online
  • for life-threatening emergencies, call 999 for an ambulance.