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Coronavirus update

After weeks of shortages and urgent calls for action on personal protective equipment, adult social care and other community services are set to receive some 30 million PPE products via their local resilience forums and the military.

But the supplies come with a caveat from health and social care secretary Matt Hancock and housing, communities and local government secretary Robert Jenrick: use with caution — only where there is “a clear and pressing need”.

The shipments are welcome news for the sector — but will it be enough?

Elsewhere, it’s not PPE that’s running short, but GPs.

A key component of NHS England’s remote triage by default policy is the national covid-19 clinical assessment service, designed to assess those patients which 111’s algorithm deems too seriously ill to continue managing their coronavirus symptoms at home without clinical intervention but not seriously ill enough to warrant an immediate trip to hospital.  

GPs assess patients over the phone and decide whether they are sick enough to head to hospital, can safely self-isolate without any further clinical intervention, or need help from their GP, either with proactive monitoring over the phone or with a face-to-face assessment.

However, according to a letter sent by NHSE’s primary care directors, the service “urgently” needs more GPs to staff it

Meanwhile, in terms of deaths at hospitals, the South West remains the region in England least affected (so far) by the coronavirus pandemic.

But the area is home to a larger-than-average population of elderly people — many of whom may rely on intensive care if they contract the virus.

The scale of such a scenario is starkly illustrated by figures obtained by HSJ, which show up to 5,500 people may need critical care treatment at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth during the next three months — a 13-fold increase on normal activity.

The trust has ramped up its critical care bed capacity in preparation, but local leaders will be crossing everything and hoping their region continues to avoid the worst of the pandemic.