Health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced yesterday that NHS 111 call handlers will screen callers for Ebola as part of new measures put in place to prepare for cases of the disease in the UK.
Speaking in parliament yesterday, Hunt said that although “robust” measures are in place for dealing with Ebola cases, extra steps are being taken to protect the public.
“It’s vital that the right decisions are made on Ebola, following any first contact made with the NHS,” he said.
“We have put in a process for all call handlers on NHS 111 to ask people reporting respiratory symptoms about their recent travel history so appropriate help can be given to higher risk patients as quickly as possible.”
In an interview with the BBC Breakfast programme, Hunt said that Public Health England and the NHS are “well prepared for Ebola” and said he is determined to “make sure that we continue to do everything we can to protect the public, based on the best medical advice."
"If the person with symptoms has recently been to west Africa and is at high risk of having been in contact with Ebola, 111 will immediately refer them to local emergency services for assessment by ambulance personnel with appropriate protective equipment,” he told BBC Breakfast.
The Department of Health’s chief medical officer Sally Davies said in a statement that that it is likely we will see a case of Ebola in the UK, but the public health risk in the UK remains low.
“We have well tested processes in place but anything that means that people are more likely to present early are to be welcomed,” she said and added that the country remains “alert and prepared, should an Ebola case be identified here.”
Enhanced screening will also be implemented at Heathrow and Gatwick airports and Eurostar terminals.
This includes assessing passengers’ recent travel history, who they have been in contact with and onward travel arrangements as well as a possible medical assessment, conducted by trained medical personnel rather than Border Force staff,” said a Downing Street spokesperson.