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Covid-19: Patients without respiratory symptoms no longer have to wear a face mask in GP surgeries

Patients who enter general practices in England no longer have to wear a face mask unless they have respiratory symptoms, NHS England and NHS Improvement says. But the updated guidance also underlines the importance of local risk assessments and says that increased measures can be used when deemed necessary.

A letter sent to clinical commissioning groups and trusts set out the changes to infection prevention and control measures following updates from the UK Health Security Agency.1 It said that health and care staff should continue to wear face masks as part of personal protective equipment when working with patients with suspected or confirmed covid-19, including untriaged patients in primary care and emergency departments.

It said that universal masking should be applied when there is a known or suspected cluster of SARS-CoV-2, for example during an outbreak or if new variants of concern emerge. Health and care staff working in non-clinical areas such as offices and social settings do not need to wear masks unless it is their personal preference or if there are specific problems raised by a risk assessment.

Patients with respiratory symptoms who are required to attend for emergency treatment should wear a face mask, if tolerated, or be offered one on arrival. All other patients are “not required” to wear a face mask but can if they prefer. In settings where patients are at high risk of infection owing to immunosuppression, such as oncology or haematology, patients might be encouraged to wear a face mask after a local risk assessment.

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Source: BMJ, 13 June 2022


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