COVID-19 communications from our patch

For resources and information related to COVID-19, please see the tab to the left of this text.

The COVID-19 outbreak is a massive challenge for the nation, let alone medical education. At present, the situation is very fluid and we are trying to communicate information to trainees / trainers as soon as it becomes available to us - please do bear with us during this difficult time. I will be posting updates from the patch team below, in chronological order. Please keep checking back as this page will be constantly updated.



2nd April 2020


 To All GP Trainers and Trainees in Primary Care Placement,


I have been asked today to share the following announcement with you about the upcoming Bank Holidays of Good Friday and Easter Monday.


NHSE have told us that Primary Care needs to be aligned with the rest of the NHS, which will be treating these as ordinary working days and cancelling staff annual leave to ensure services are able to be maintained. To enable this, changes to the GP contract coming imminently mean the April dates will now be identified as normal working days for GP practices, so that we can manage demand together. The position for the May bank holidays will be confirmed next month.


Our local advice in Wessex and Thames Valley has been that trainees need to be treated fairly but in line with the rest of the NHS workforce, so it is felt appropriate for them to do a fair share of cover on these days. We do not yet have answers as to whether these days can be taken in lieu at a later date, but will let you know as soon as we do.







Dr Helen O'Reilly & Dr Ben Allured

Associate Deans, Portsmouth & IOW GP Education, Health Education England Wessex




26th March 2020


Dear trainees, trainers, training practices and TPDs
We appreciate that these are difficult and challenging times but it is still essential that we look after ourselves, our colleagues and in particular our trainees
Whilst the usual split into clinical and educational time is suspended during the pandemic, it is important that clinical sessions are sensibly arranged and incorporate sufficient time for breaks and debriefs. Trainees can and should still exception report when necessary however these will be managed in the context of the pandemic.
Trainees are reminded that if they need specific support or advice then both the Lead Employer and our TPDs are there for you.
Some useful sources of information include:
Kind regards
Rachel Elliott
Primary Care Dean and Head of School




23rd March 2020


The NHS has now announced the suspension of training, which includes the suspension of the 3 sessions of CPD per week for full time GP Trainees (including Tutorial, Day Release and personal study). You are now expected to reallocate these sessions to working within your practice, in part to release your trainers and programme directors to their own clinical work. Despite this we believe that continuing to support you remotely via your small groups is essential in this exceptionally difficult time and hopefully you all have already had contact with your Training Programme Director.

If you are NOT already part of an online group or are UNSURE which group you should be linked to please contact Tracy in the office who will put you in touch.

We also hope that you will continue to check in with your Trainer/Supervisor on a daily basis to ensure you are coping with the challenges we are all facing.

With regard to your time in placement, it is up to you and your Trainer/Supervisor to decide how your time is best utilised, as each trainee has different capabilities. Duties can include clinical contact or any quality improvement activities. We are drafting some suggestions for time well spent in practices, which we hope to post on the website shortly.


In situations like this, where no clear guidance is available, it is worth considering the following guiding principles:


1. Consider what is safest and most useful for you (and your family), your colleagues, your patients, your practice and your community.

2. Work independently within your abilities.

3. Listen to feedback and direction from your supervisors.

4. Ask for help when you need it.

5. Use resources sparingly, including other clinician’s time.

6. Make pragmatic decisions based on the information you do have and considering the wider impact.

7. Take opportunities to share your experiences with your peers and to benchmark your decisions.


And remember, these are also the key skills that underpin the speciality of General Practice. Do continue to reflect on these experiences in your learning logs and with your peers.


We will continue to share guidance via the small groups and on the website:


Remember to look after yourselves and those around you.






20th March 2020

To:  All Portsmouth and IOW GP Trainees and GP Trainers,

A further update from the patch office team:

Some of you will be aware that last night an NHS England Webinar made some announcements about plans for the current emergency. The summary document has been posted on our website.

It includes the following statement:

“Trainees: Education is halted at present to free up time to help practices.

Trainers to discuss situation with them individually and help plan how best they can help the practice/network based on own circumstances/stage of training, ask if they want to offer sessions back to the practice”

We are awaiting confirmation of what this means in practice. Our local view is that we continue to have a role to support our trainees and we would like to be able to offer weekly voluntary remote meetings for all our small groups and learning sets to share their experiences in these difficult times. It is likely these would occur for 1 hour per week at a time of the group’s choosing. Online clinical topics are also available form a number of places and we are working on access and signposting for our trainees.

More information will follow.

Pragmatic decisions can be made with supervisors/trainers about how best to make use of trainees time within practice. Trainers – please do share your ideas with your trainer groups, and we will also see what we can collate for you.

As we all increasingly move to relying on telephone consultation the following tips from Roger Neighbour are a useful reminder to us all:

In an attempt to reduce the email traffic we send you we will instead be posting links on our website as various guidance is issued and to update you on our local training plans. Please save this link:

This includes the link to the HEE Covid-19 Information which will hopefully start to answer many of your questions as the days progress.

We aim to also send a weekly update by email and we hope most trainees will by now also have contact with their Small Group or Learning Set TPD via WhatsApp.

Finally I wish you all well. Look after yourselves – this free resource from Red Whale “Covid 19 - An Emotional and Psychological Survival Guide” might be of use when considering your own well being:

Sending best wishes to you all,


Helen and Ben

GP Associate Deans, Portsmouth and IOW GP Training, Health Education England Wessex



18th March 2020

Following the information sent last week (below) about the cancellation of face to face group training events due to the escalation in COVID advice, I am writing to keep you updated.

- Day Release and Small Groups have not occurred today, Wednesday 18th March, at either Portsmouth or IOW sites. However, from NEXT Wednesday, 25th March, we hope to be able to run Day Release remotely with trainees logging in (on laptop/mobile device) to live Webinars and/or interactive small group discussions. The TPDs will be individually leading on these as usual. We have met this morning as a patch to plan this programme and we will issue information about content and access in due course. Planned Secondary Care speakers will be asked for resources which will be discussed in online small groups. All resources will be made available online, details of how will be shared next week.

Our priority is to support our trainees and allow them to meet online to share their experiences and learning in these difficult times. Clinical topics are available from a number of places online and we will look at how we can access and signpost these for trainees to study online remotely. Tutorials with Trainers remain an important opportunity for Trainers to support their Trainees and whilst we recognise that staffing levels are pressured we hope that these opportunities continue.

In line with new guidance the following events have been cancelled or postponed:

  •             GP Topic Based Teaching (First Wednesday afternoon monthly) – Suspended
  •             New Learning Set for International Medical Graduates - Suspended
  •             ST3 Residential 21/22nd April (will be replaced with live online sessions on same dates – info will be shared nearer the time)
  •             Prepare for Primary Care event for 6th Formers 22nd April – Cancelled
  •             Wessex Educator Forum, 29th April - Cancelled
  •             Trainers Conference, 13th May - Cancelled
  •             ST 1/2/3 Joint Day on Isle of Wight, 17th June – Cancelled

Where training has been cancelled trainees will be expected to be at work. Pragmatic decisions can be made with their supervisors/trainers about the best use of their time for their learning which can be documented in learning log entries.

Please be reassured that we are working hard to try to reduce the impact of this crisis on your GP Training and our decisions are in line with the rest of Wessex and the rest of the UK. We are aware that your training experiences are likely to be affected and we are taking daily guidance from HEE and are working with the other patches to help ensure regular updates are issued. We are aware of a number of important training issues which are in the process of being discussed and we hope guidance will be issued shortly.

Please do inform us of issues which cause significant problems for you, we are here to support you. The patch admin team, Training Programme Directors and Associate Deans still available for contact via the usual routes. If you have any delay in response from any of the team please contact the patch office.

We are all navigating our way in unprecidented times and there is much uncertainty. Please follow national guidance to protect yourselves and your families, and thank you all for your cooperation and patience. We will share updates as we have them.