18.06.2024

GPs want officials to think twice about alerting the public to health threats

GPs want officials to think twice about alerting the public to health threats in the future — so they aren’t swamped by panicked Brits. Under pressure family doctors have complained about the messaging pushed out during last winter’s crisis.

Dozens more kids than expected died from the bug, which typically causes scarlet fever or other mild illnesses.

UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) chiefs were spooked by the trend and pushed out a wider awareness campaign for parents to keep their eye out for tell-tale signs of the bacterial infection.

Senior GPs claim, however, that these efforts caused ‘widespread panic’ and ‘huge demand’ on an already struggling service.

Under pressure family doctors have complained about the messaging pushed out during last winter’s Strep A crisis. They called for both the Government and health chiefs ‘to take into consideration the wider system effects’ when sending out alerts around ‘single diseases’. They have also asked for a ‘comprehensive’ internal analysis of knock-on effects of the Strep A campaign, which ran from December until February

Under pressure family doctors have complained about the messaging pushed out during last winter's Strep A crisis. They called for both the Government and health chiefs 'to take into consideration the wider system effects' when sending out alerts around 'single diseases'. They have also asked for a 'comprehensive' internal analysis of knock-on effects of the Strep A campaign, which ran from December until February

At the height of the chaos, desperate parents needing antibiotics for their children were turned away due to a lack of supplies.

It also saw parents pull kids out of school as the illness swept through classrooms.

Family doctors have now called for both the Government and health chiefs ‘to take into consideration the wider system effects’ when sending out alerts around ‘single diseases’.

They have also asked for a ‘comprehensive’ internal analysis of the knock-on effects of the Strep A campaign, which kicked off in December.

The issue was raised last week during the annual conference of UK Local Medical Committees (LMCs), attended by dozens of GPs.

This statutory body represents individual GPs and practices as a whole, and its opinion helps shape the doctors’ union, the British Medical Association, policies and informs negotiations with NHS England regarding GP contracts.

The motion was proposed by Dr Selvaseelan Selvarajah, from Tower Hamlets Local Medical Committee, GP magazine Pulse reported. It was passed in full.

Dr Clare Bannon, deputy chair of the BMA’s GP Committee in England, cautioned that the move could be seen as controversial at the time.

She said: ‘The potential controversy is this motion could be read as “general practice has no responsibility to put mitigations in place for the spread of disease” which it does.’

But speaking today, Dr Bannon, who led the GPC’s response to Strep A, added: ‘This policy highlights concerns the BMA raised during the recent outbreak.

‘Government campaigns and media interest resulted in a significant increase in GP demand during the already pressured winter period.

‘Patients, who were understandably worried, were requesting urgent GP appointments and often these patients simply wanted advice or reassurance — something which NHS 111 may have been able to provide.’

She added: ‘It is irresponsible of governments to push public health messaging around single diseases without ensuring that mechanisms are in place to meet the inevitable demands that follow.

‘To simply expect GPs to take on more is unreasonable and undoable. It takes GPs away from delivering care to those patients who need them most.

‘During the outbreak, general practice became overwhelmed, and we would therefore expect governments to now carry out analysis of national public health comms campaigns to ensure that lessons are learnt.

‘BMA call on governments to be transparent with these findings so that any further single disease outbreaks can be better managed and allow GPs to continue caring for communities.’

It comes after it was last week revealed that family doctors are demanding the right to charge their NHS patients for private appointments.

It would allow wealthier patients to pay their GP — who earn around £110,000-a-year, on average — to effectively jump the queue and potentially avoid the 8am scramble to be seen.

But critics warned the ‘two-tier system’ could lead to medics shunning those who cannot afford to pay, leaving them without access to care.

Elected GP representatives passed the motion calling for the introduction of private charges at the same LMC conference.

From the ‘bubbly’ seven-year-old whose father desperately tried CPR to save her, to the four-year-old who loved exploring: The victims of Strep A

Muhammad Ibrahim Ali

The four-year-old boy attended Oakridge School and Nursery in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.

He died at home from a cardiac arrest in mid-November after contracting a Strep A infection.

He was prescribed antibiotics.

His mother Shabana Kousar told the Bucks Free Press: ‘The loss is great and nothing will replace that.

‘He was very helpful around the house and quite adventurous, he loved exploring and enjoyed the forest school, his best day was a Monday and said how Monday was the best day of the week.

Muhammad Ibrahim Ali, who attended Oakridge School and Nursery in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, died after contracting the bacterial infection

Hannah Roap

The ‘bubbly’ and ‘beautiful’ seven-year-old is the only child to have died from Strep A in Wales.

Her devastated parents told how their ‘hearts had broken into a million pieces’.

The first signs of the infection were mild. Hannah’s father Abul took his daughter to the GP after a cough got worse overnight.

She was prescribed steroids and sent home, but she died less than 12 hours later.

Mr Roap recalled how he desperately tried to resuscitate his child: ‘She stopped breathing at 8pm but we were not immediately aware because she was sleeping.

‘I did CPR, I tried to revive her but it didn’t work. Paramedics arrived and continued the CPR but it was too late.’

Mr Roap said the family was ‘utterly devastated’ and awaiting answers from the hospital.

The family believe she might have lived if she was initially given antibiotics.

Hanna Roap, who attended Victoria Primary School in Penarth, Wales, died after contracting Strep A last month. Her family say they have been 'traumatised' by her death

Hanna Roap, who attended Victoria Primary School in Penarth, Wales, died after contracting Strep A last month. Her family say they have been ‘traumatised’ by her death

Stella-Lily McCorkindale

Five-year-old Stella-Lily McCokindale died following a Strep A infection, the first death from the infection in Northern Ireland.

She died on December 5 at Royal Belfast Hospital.

In a tribute on social media, her father Robert said the pair had ‘loved every minute’ of being together as they went on scooter and bike rides.

‘If prayers, thoughts, feelings and love could have worked she would have walked out of that hospital holding her daddy’s hand,’ he said.

Stella-Lily attended Black Mountain Primary School, which said she was ‘a bright and talented little girl’ and described her death as a ‘tragic loss’.

Five-year-old Stella-Lily McCokindale who attended Black Mountain Primary School in Belfast died in early December after contracting Strep A

Five-year-old Stella-Lily McCokindale who attended Black Mountain Primary School in Belfast died in early December after contracting Strep A

Jax Albert Jefferys

A five-year-old boy who died of Strep A was misdiagnosed as having flu, his family has said.

Jax Albert Jefferys, from Waterlooville, Hampshire, died on December 1.

His mother Charlene told how she had sought medical advice three times during the four days leading up to Jax’s death and was told he was suffering from influenza A. She described Jax as a ‘cheeky little chappy’.

Later tests revealed he actually had Strep A.

Jax Albert Jefferys, a five-year-old from Waterlooville, Hampshire, died on, December 1, from Strep A

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