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Independents' Day

Widespread confusion over face masks in general practice

NHS England and Public Health England have sparked widespread confusion among GPs today by giving seemingly contradictory advice on face coverings in general practice.

NHS England said in a system letter last week that the guidance for all staff and visitors to hospital to wear a face covering from today would also apply to primary care settings.

NHS England said Public Health England would publish the guidance but the update made by PHE only refers to hospital settings.

Primary care medical director for NHS England Dr Nikki Kanani added to the confusion yesterday via a GP email bulletin and Twitter post alluding to guidance having changed, however linking only to the hospital guidance and previous guidance for GP settings which did not appear to be updated at all.

GPs responding to her post expressed their confusion when they were unable to locate any updated guidance for GP practice settings.

Asked to clarify the situation, spokespeople for NHS England told Pulse that PHE has a clear process for deciding on whether further guidance is needed which includes an evidence review, clear rationale and agreement at a government scientific committee. When pressed on whether the guidance had changed they directed Pulse to PHE.

Asked if they wanted to make a statement, an NHS England spokesperson said: 'Public Health England continues to set the advice for PPE usage including in primary care settings, which we will distribute as usual.'

Meanwhile, a PHE spokesperson said NHS England had to explain the guidance as it had come from them.

The BMA joined the calls for clarity, with council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul accusing the Government of failing to properly plan for the change to guidance.

He said: 'It is imperative that we do all we can to prevent the spread of infection in healthcare settings, so that patients and visitors can attend hospital and GP practices without fear of contamination.  The wearing of masks by staff and face coverings by the public will be key to enabling this. 

'It is clear though that the Government has failed to properly plan for these changes which are now in effect and have left providers of NHS services confused and unprepared for how this will be implemented on the frontline.

'Furthermore, it is still unclear as to whether mandatory face coverings will extend to patients attending GP practices.'


Readers' comments (26)

  • Can anyone cite any useful contribution Dr Katani has made since being appointed? Anything at all?

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  • Incompetent, inept, ill-considered...yet another epic fail in the litany of similar failures by Dr Kanani et al in NHSE. As throughout this crisis, NHSE demonstrates how useless it is.

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  • Er so can someone tell me - should my staff be wearing masks when not seeing patients?

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  • ...err as clear as mud and as useful as a chocolate teapot....and still we are having trouble getting our own PPE!

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  • Wear mask , ask staff to wear mask and ask patients to wear mask. As we are medical people , It makes sense and no harm at all.
    We don’t need to worry what government says.

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  • Indeed I looked at the short update and duly clicked on the links which suggested...nothing had changed. All clinical contacts covered by PPE but we are advising all patients to wear a face covering when attending for whatever reason as per R Vautrey’s recent notification and staff who cannot keep 2m (for the time being) apart during non clinical work.

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  • Actions - Epic fail@Kanani
    Reactions - Gongs@Kanani
    Result- Dame Kanani

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  • Hmmm, a casual observer might think that they don’t actually know what they are doing.
    Also, where’s our (admittedly inadequate) PPE? Supply levels are still pathetic, and not enough to allow widespread use of masks.

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  • Shambolic. The one time when clear communication is absolutely critical. You couldn’t make it up

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  • I don’t think Nikki Kanani should take the brunt of abuse on this. She is just a messenger. She seems like she is a grass roots GP and I imagine there is a lot going on behind the scenes that we are unaware of, possibly things would be even worse if it wasn’t for her. PHE are the root cause of this confusion and their guidance from day 1 has been shambolic. No need to turn on each other.

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