A simple and compelling point was made on Peston by former WHO director Anthony Costello last night: the UK already has a potentially world class network for track and trace in its GP surgeries.
But these are being sidelined as outsourcing giants Serco and Sitel have been hired to organise clinical and non clinical people to sit at the end of a phone to have conversations with symptom sufferers to get them tested, trace who they’ve been with and (presumably) monitor their progress.
According to Costello, GPs are not even allowed to order a Covid-19 test for patients (those patients have to do it for themselves).
— Peston (@itvpeston) May 20, 2020
“The great strength of the NHS is the primary care system.”@globalhlthtwit tells @Peston that by not giving GP’s the ability to ask for COVID-19 tests, we are bypassing a sustainable system that will look after us in the long run. #Peston pic.twitter.com/dttQD9AWc7
Now it may be that the risk was thought to be too high for GPs that all their other primary care responsibilities would fall by the wayside if they became the port of call for coronavirus sufferers.
Or maybe the risk of contagion in the surgeries was too high (though GP surgeries are just as able to do a phone or online consultation as anyone else).
But this inability from the start of the epidemic to use GPs in any way for the most urgent primary care issue of our age does increasingly seem odd - and is arguably yet another manifestation of the harm done over many years in eliminating any spare capacity from the NHS.
When this is all over, increasing the fundamental resilience to shocks of the NHS will surely be an urgent priority.