NHS England has advised GPs to review Covid-19 business continuity plans, including for potential closures and "high" staff absence in the event of local outbreaks.

In a new update to the GP Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), NHS England said that practices should prepare to "maintain services" if there is a local outbreak of coronavirus.

It said practice buildings may be required to shut to allow for cleaning and many staff may need to be off work due to sickness or self isolation as the NHS Test and Trace programme gets fully underway. It stated: "It is recommended that (business continuity) plans are reviewed to capture the risks of Covid-19 and plans to maintain services. This should include local outbreak scenarios that could temporarily disrupt delivery of services from practice premises (for example, to allow effective cleaning) or disrupt staff availability (for example, if staff become poorly or are required to isolate) following NHS Trace and Test contact."

It added: "Plans should consider high levels of staff sickness and self-isolation, call handling, staff and patient communication and, ultimately, denial of access to premises for staff and patients."

NHS England reiterated that business continuity arrangements will be able to recognise the opportunities to maintain patient services through remote working and support from local primary care networks (PCNs), and consider the use of buddying systems.

The SOP states GP practices may need to prioritise their workload using "clinical judgement and experience of recent months".

If services are disrupted, practices should inform commissioners, update the NHS 111 directory of services, follow Public Health England (PHE) guidance on managing infectious disease outbreaks and communicate any service changed to patients.

The updated SOP is available at: https://www.england.nhs.uk/coronavirus/publication/managing-coronavirus-covid-19-in-general-practice-sop/

Last reviewed 30 June 2020