Anne Marie's Weekly Column - Covid-19 Update

Almost every issue I am dealing with now is Covid-19 related. Through this column I hope to address each week some of the most pressing issues. If you have any concerns or issues during these difficult times, my team and I are here ready to help.

Furloughing Employees

Many employers are now feeling they have no option but to make employees redundant as their businesses shrink. There is an alternative, and one which protects employees at no cost to the employer. An employer can furlough employees and sign them up for the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Through the scheme, employers can claim online for 80% of furloughed employees’ usual monthly wage costs, up to £2,500 a month, plus the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that wage.

Employers can also rehire and furlough any staff made redundant dating back to 28th February, so if you have proceeded with redundancies already, you can reconsider and instead choose to furlough your employees. You can furlough some or all of your employees. You can also furlough employees and bring them back into full time work if demand changes, provided they have been furloughed for at least 3 weeks. They then can be furloughed again if needed.

Personal Protective Equipment

For those key workers on whom we depend, having the right personal protective equipment (PPE) is vitally important in the fight against coronavirus. The Government has established the national supply distribution response team, supported by the Armed Forces, to deliver equipment to people who need it the most. Over the past two weeks, 397 million pieces of PPE equipment have been delivered to 58,000 healthcare settings like GPs, pharmacies, and community care providers. Every single GP practice, dental practice, and community pharmacy has had a PPE delivery. All care homes, hospices, and home care providers will have, or shortly will have, a delivery too.

Devon Clinical Commission Group (CCG) has also contacted businesses and organisations across Devon and asked them to donate any unused or unneeded PPE. Piles of commercial PPE stocks which may be laying idle can be used by our NHS and care workers in Devon to bolster national supplies.

Testing for Covid-19

NHS staff need testing to ensure they are safe to treat patients, and to enable them to return to work from self isolation. Last week, the Health Secretary announced a new five-part strategy to ramp up testing for NHS staff, key workers, and, eventually, to the whole population. Working with universities, research institutions, and businesses, the Government is rolling out staff testing across the NHS, with plans for a full roll-out for health, social care, and other frontline workers, with the aim of testing 100,000 people a day by the end of the month.

This test determines whether an individual has the virus or not. The next challenge is developing and rolling out a test to determine whether or not an individual has had the virus, recovered, and thereby developed some immunity. That together with a vaccine will be the game changers enabling us to return to normality,

Primary Care

Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) are working closely with GP practices across Devon to ensure that patients who need to be seen can be seen, and those who have Covid-19 symptoms, are seen in a dedicated primary care site, limiting exposure to staff and other patients. The digital team at the CCG has been working with practices to help them install the online consultation platform eConsult. More than 90 per cent of practices are now using eConsult which means less face-to-face contact is taking place while frontline services are still being provided by phone and secure video-link. Over the past week in Devon there were more than 2,200 video consultations.

My next phone-in surgery will be Friday 17th April at 12-1pm. Please call my office on 01626 368277 to arrange an appointment.