Face coverings should be compulsory in GP surgeries as well as in hospitals, the British Medical Association has said.
The government announced, unexpectedly, last week that everyone in a hospital would be required to wear face coverings. Now the BMA has called for consistency across the health care sector. The warning came amid concerns about access to protective equipment for practices. They have been told that a government portal is only for use in emergencies.
BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: “As this virus knows no boundaries, it is important that there is consistency around face coverings that applies throughout health care settings, reflective of the integrated health care system we have.
“It is extremely concerning to hear that there has been no consultation with hospital trusts on how this will work in practice for them, or with GPs about any future plans. If we are to have confidence in the Government’s ability to deliver on this, they must be forthcoming immediately on the details of how this will work. Whilst many GP practices have taken major steps to reduce face-to-face consultations, encouraging patients to wear a face-covering when attending a practice will help further protect staff and patients.
“Having a consistent rule across all healthcare settings will avoid confusion for the public and make life easier for the staff and healthcare workers who will be trying to implement these safety measures. There remains a serious concern about the availability of medical masks in general practice and community settings and this must also be addressed as a matter of urgency.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “We are advising the public to consider wearing face coverings in enclosed public spaces where they may be more likely to come into contact with people they do not normally meet. This includes visiting a GP surgery or pharmacist. GPs are already encouraged to use facemasks in waiting-room areas and pharmacists should wear facemasks when working in an area with possible or confirmed cases and if they are unable to maintain two metres’ social distance.”
- The Health Service Journal reported that the PPE portal for primary and social care providers has now been labelled as “emergency top-up.” The website was built by eBay and practices had understood it could fulfil the bulk of their demand.
Royal College of GPs chair Professor Martin Marshall said: “It is crucial that GPs, who will be wearing PPE for most face to face patient contacts, and other frontline workers in the community have access to a sustained supply of all necessary PPE as the lockdown is lifted. This vital equipment will help to ensure GPs, our teams and our patients remain protected and help to stop the spread of the virus.”