|Abstract||The Health Protection Agency will this week be issuing symptom-based clinical action cards to all GPs in England to help them recognise unusual symptoms. |
The cards do not reflect any increased threat to the public, but have been developed in response to requests from the medical profession for more specific training in the recognition of unusual symptoms caused by emerging diseases and by chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) hazards.
Should patients go to their GP with any such symptoms, which are unusual or difficult to identify, GPs are asked to contact their local Health Protection Team for advice and support, just as they already do in the case of notifiable diseases, such as meningitis.
The cards, funded by the Department of Health and produced by the Agency’s Emergency Response Division, have been endorsed by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP).
Professor Pat Troop, Chief Executive of the Health Protection Agency, said: “An important part of the Agency’s work is training frontline healthcare professionals whose response will be vital in determining our success in containing either an incident involving chemical, biological or nuclear hazards or a newly emerging disease.
“These cards, which have been developed in close collaboration with GPs themselves, are part of a range of training materials which the Agency is producing.”
Dr Nigel Lightfoot, Director of the Agency’s Emergency Response Division, said: “These cards have in fact been developed at the request of GPs themselves, not because there is any particular threat of an incident.
“Our training programmes particularly focus on those healthcare workers who will be the first to see presenting patients and GPs are clearly a very important group. More training materials for frontline healthcare professionals are in the pipeline and our GP training programme is going from strength to strength.”
Dr Maureen Baker, Honorary Secretary of the RCGP, said: "GPs have previously received little training in recognising the signs and symptoms that may be related to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear hazards and emerging diseases. The Royal College of General Practitioners welcomes the introduction of clinical action cards which will provide GPs with comprehensive information about such symptoms."
Dr John Chisholm, chairman of the British Medical Association's General Practitioners Committee, said: "We fully support the issue of this information and would like to see it extended to all UK GPs and accident and emergency staff in hospitals. Doctors and their colleagues are at the front line of detection and treatment. This timely information will help them save many lives should the unthinkable happen."
Notes to editors
1. The Health Protection Agency works to protect health, prevent harm and prepare for threats from infectious diseases, chemicals, poisons and other radiological and environmental dangers. The Agency covers England and Wales and works with the National Radiological Protection Board.
2. Part of the Agency’s remit is to prepare the health service to be able to respond to CBRN threats. On behalf of the Department of Health it runs a training programme for GPs and other healthcare professionals.
3. The Devolved Administrations (Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) are considering producing their own branded versions of the cards, based on the English clinical action cards. In addition, a poster is being prepared for Accident and Emergency staff which includes the same information as the clinical action cards. Designs are currently being ‘road tested’ with A&E staff around the country.