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Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) advice

AOP advice, 12 February 2020

There have been a small number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK, most of which are found in people who have recently travelled to, or arrived from, China or the surrounding areas. The UK Chief Medical Officers still consider the risk to individuals to be low, however members may be concerned about how this will affect day to day practice.

Basic hygiene procedures

The basic steps that members should take are:

When to advise a patient they should rebook their appointment

It is currently highly unlikely that anyone who presents with cold or flu-like symptoms will have the coronavirus. However, in our view if patients inform you that they have cold or flu-like symptoms before they arrive for their appointment then it is acceptable to advise them to rebook their appointment for when they have fully recovered. If the patient only advises you of cold or flu-like symptoms when they present to the practice, given the prolonged duration of close contact, it is acceptable to advise the patient that you are unable to see them, and they should rebook on another day when they have recovered. 

When to contact NHS 111/Department of Health, Northern Ireland 

It is very unlikely that patients with the disease will present to optical practices. However, if there is good reason to suspect that a patient in your practice may have coronavirus, based on symptoms and risk of exposure to the disease, you should immediately contact NHS 111 for advice. Those in Northern Ireland should call 0300 200 7885. In this situation, you should isolate the patient until you have sought advice and minimise the risk of the disease spreading.

What to do if you think you have coronavirus

If you think you may have the disease you should contact NHS 111 or the Department of Health Northern Ireland  and follow the advice you receive. You should not attend work until you have been given the all clear. 

If there is a risk you may have already passed the disease to others, you may need to share the details of relevant patients and colleagues with authorities. For the avoidance of doubt, this will not constitute a breach of confidentiality, or data protection regulations as there will be a clear public health risk.