Black cabs begin transporting patients to GP appointments

Katherine Johnston (09 April, 2020)

Two specialist centres for suspected COVID-19 patients have been set up in Southwark

34318Black cab stock image (Image: Counse / CC 2.0)

Suspected COVID-19 patients who need to see a doctor but can’t travel in their own car will now be transported by a new black cab service, three weeks after the News ran a story with the industry calling on the Mayor and Boris to do just that.

The cabbies will take them to two new COVID-19 community centres set up to ensure patients can still access healthcare despite the lockdown.

On March 26 the News ran a story from London cabbies calling on the mayor of London and the Prime Minster to enlist their service and let them help, in their words “the city we love.”

Grant Davis is Chairman of the London Cab Drivers’ Club, which has championed the trade in its calls for proper licensing and scrutiny of passenger vehicle apps. Based in Bermondsey’s Biscuit Factory, the organisation publishes the Badge newspaper for London’s iconic cab service.

Talking to the News three weeks ago, Mr. Davis called on London’s Mayor and PM Boris Johnson to utilise the nearly 20,000 vehicles that are effectively grounded due to the lockdown. “Nobody is going out, quite rightly, so we are all sitting at home’ he said.

“We have often been called the fourth emergency service in the capital. London is in a pickle, and we want to play our part. We’re not talking about charging people on the meter – just something to cover our diesel if needs be, although many of us are offering free rides to NHS workers.

“Our vehicles are perfect for transporting loved ones to and from hospital, for health workers and patients, for delivering essential pharmaceuticals. We’ve all been sterilising our cabs, and we have disabled ramps, steps, hearing loops – and of course a partition, which makes it safer for people worried about being in a vehicle with a driver.”

Now Dr Gavin McColl is  realising the call knowing  black cabs have a huge advantage with the sealable screen between the driver and passenger, and its easily disinfected interior.

The new COVID-19 community centres will open this week in Southwark so patients can still have face-to-face appointments when absolutely necessary.

The new scheme is provided by the taxi hailing platform, GETT and can scale up as needed – ideally starting with a roll-out in Lewisham and Lambeth and other London boroughs. It is being funded by the NHS.

Dr McColl said: “London’s black cab drivers are keen to do all they can to help in this crisis and we are very pleased to be working with GETT and the London Taxi Drivers’ Association to put this in place.

“Not all patients will be able to safely transport themselves to the COVID-19 community treatment centres and we need to ensure that we reduce the spread of the disease.”

These centres will be used to see patients who have been referred by their GP and are ill with suspected COVID-19 symptoms. Staff working there will have full personal protective equipment.

The other GP practices in the borough will continue to work together to see patients remotely by video or telephone conference and where necessary, ensure that patients who need to physically see a GP or nurse can do so at GP sites around the borough.

Essential home visits, for example for patients receiving palliative care, will be carried out by GP and the GP out of hours service, SELDOC.

Dr Rob Davidson, a Southwark GP and clinical lead for South East London Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “By working together, we can make the best use of our staff, resources and buildings to ensure that we can provide care for patients with Coronavirus as well as for patients who have illnesses unrelated to COVID-19.

“We have rapidly developed our ability to assess and manage patients remotely which means patients who do need GP or nurse advice can still access this without putting themselves or others at risk of spreading the virus.”


Advice if you think you have COVID-19

If you have symptoms that may be due to Coronavirus, a fever (over 37.8 degrees) or new continuous cough, you should stay at home and avoid close contact with other people for at least seven days.

The people you live with will need to self-isolate for 14 days.

Do not book a GP appointment but do call the 111 coronavirus service.


Urgent medical help

If you need urgent medical help, use the NHS 111 online service.

The 111 online service asks questions about your symptoms to help you get the help you need.

Call 111 if you need urgent help for a child under 5 or cannot get help online.


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