A new study led by Edge Hill University has received national recognition for its fresh approach to how general practice (GP) surgeries assess suspected COVID-19 patients. 

Conducted by Edge Hill in partnership with St Helens Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and St Helens GP providers, the research was highlighted for its innovative ‘drop box’ doorstep service at the Royal College of General Practitioners’ annual conference. 

The service, which delivers equipment directly to a patient to help a healthcare professional make a diagnosis, has been supporting the safe and efficient assessment of patients in their own home at the same time as protecting NHS staff and saving vital personal protective equipment (PPE). 

Dr Greg Irving, a Senior Lecturer in General Practice at Edge Hill and St Helens CCG governing body member, led the study.

He said: “Health professionals are at increased risk of contracting COVID-19. In an effort to contain the virus, the NHS has recommended that remote consultations should be used when possible to support the safe assessment of patients beyond face-to-face assessments. 

“The doorstep assessment service was designed to increase the number of assessments with suspected COVID-19 patients in St Helens while also reducing the number of face-to-face assessments and preserving precious PPE equipment. 

“The pandemic has had a major impact on general practice, most notably the switch to virtual consultations. As we begin to see a pathway to recovery, it’s important that we reflect on the challenges and opportunities that have pushed GPs to innovate their service and how we can best use this knowledge to provide a more flexible, future-proof assessment service.” 

The team was awarded best poster in the COVID-19 category for their evaluation of the new doorstep assessment service designed to support St Helens GPs with remote assessments for patients with suspected COVID-19. 

An example of a drop box delivered to patients

Patients receive a drop box that contains a thermometer, blood oximeter, a digital stethoscope, a digital otoscope and an iPad set up prior to arrival that allows GPs to liaise with patients to obtain physiological parameters away from a traditional face-to-face consultation. 

As well as the initial doorstep service the team is now also offering an oximetry monitoring service for patients with Covid-19 who don’t need immediate hospital attention but are at high risk of developing serious symptoms. Patients are given pulse oximeters to use at home and record blood oxygen readings three times a day to reduce the risk of serious deterioration. Edge Hill and its partners have pulled together in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

The University’s Faculty of Health, Social Care & Medicine is one of the largest providers of health and social care education in the North West of England. For more information on the many health-related courses on offer, visit our website.