London Black Cabs will begin supporting the NHS this week by transporting patients with COVID-19 symptoms who also require assessment for other non-urgent health conditions, thanks to a partnership between the NHS in South East London and taxi platform Gett.
Despite GP practices handling as many patient queries as possible on the telephone, some patients will continue to require a face-to-face appointment. This new initiative will see Black Cab drivers transport patients who are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, but still need to be seen by a GP, to and from designated NHS community centres. Patients will not be tested for COVID-19 at the centres.
Black Cabs are being used for this service as the “privacy divider” maintains separation between the driver and passenger and the interior design allows the cabs to be professionally cleaned between each journey to standards set by the NHS. Black Cabs being used for this service will not be available to the public.
The service is being enabled by Gett, the corporate ground travel platform, whose technology, operations team and dispatch operation will link thousands of Black Cab drivers with the NHS team in South East London. Patients using the service will not need to take public transport or come into contact with other members of the public to get to or from the GP appointment.
The initiative, commissioned by South East London Clinical Commissioning Group, is provided by the NHS and is free of charge for patients. It will first launch in Southwark before being rolled out to other boroughs in South East London.
It has been advised that patients should continue to access healthcare services in the normal way, via the NHS website, 111 online or contacting their GP practice, and the NHS will determine which patients require this service. A patient may require a face-to-face GP appointment if they have certain pre-existing health conditions or symptoms in addition to their COVID-19 symptoms.
How it works:
Patients contacting the NHS who have suspected Covid-19 and are clinically assessed as needing to see a GP or practice nurse will be referred to one of the NHS community centres.
If the patient is unable to travel using their own car, the NHS will provide the patient’s details to Gett who will dispatch a Black Cab to their address.
Where the patient’s mobile phone number is provided to Gett, the patient will receive a text message about their vehicle, driver and journey.
Where the patient’s landline or mobile number is provided to Gett, the patient may be called to assist them where appropriate.
On arrival at the NHS community centres, patients will either be initially assessed by a medical professional in the Black Cab and taken into the building if it is judged clinically necessary, or taken immediately into the building.
On completion of the assessment, patients will either be returned home by the same Black Cab service provided by Gett, with advice and medication where appropriate, or routed into a different NHS service.
The service will initially operate Monday to Friday between 8am and 6.30pm.
Black Cab drivers will not be required to assist patients. Any patients who require assistance, will receive their healthcare via a different pathway.
The service will not be used for patients who require a face-to-face GP appointment but who are not exhibiting Covid-19 symptoms (cough and/or fever). These patients will be required to make their own way to one of a number of different GP practices in the borough who are seeing patients without Covid-19 symptoms.
Protective measures will include:
Additional covering of the privacy screen between the driver and passenger, provided by the NHS.
Professional cleaning of the passenger cabin between each passenger journey by a specialist company provided by the NHS, using products and processes within the Public Health England Infection Control Guidance, carried out wearing full PPE.
Covering any fabric in the vehicle with wipeable material, provided by the NHS.
Masks for the passenger(s) and driver, provided by the NHS, and alcohol gel for the driver.
Opening the window in the passenger cabin throughout journeys as increased ventilation is recommended to help reduce the virus circulating.
As a precautionary measure, Black Cab drivers with certain health conditions will not be allowed to provide this service, based on NHS guidance.
Gavin McColl, a Southwark GP who proposed the idea 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 (LTDA) to put this in place. It is vital that we continue to provide GP services to patients in South East London even if they have Covid-19 symptoms, and this ensures they can get to the dedicated NHS community centres without spreading the disease.”
Duncan Burgess, Gett UK Managing Director, said: “London's Black Cab drivers are the best in the world and it's clear that many want to do what they can to support the vulnerable and protect communities. We are delighted to be able to provide the technology, operations support, dispatch system and contact centre team to support the NHS at this vital time.”
Steve McNamara, General Secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers' Association, said: "London's Black Cab trade is proud to be part of this initiative to support Londoners and the NHS by getting people who need to see their GPs to their appointments quickly and safely. During this crisis, we are working hard to help people who need to make essential journeys."
Taxi image credit: LEVC