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BMA advises GPs to wear FFP2 masks in face-to-face consultations

FFP2 mask

GPs should wear FFP2 face masks ‘as default’ when consulting patients face to face, to protect against the highly-infectious Omicron Covid variant, the BMA has advised.

Because ‘Omicron is readily transmissible in air’ and ‘there is now enough evidence that there is community circulation’, GPs should act as though ‘everyone around you has it’ and wear FFP2 masks when consulting, LMCs distributing BMA GP Committee information said this week.

The notice, shared by Lancashire and Cumbria LMCs and Cleveland LMC, read: ‘In this case, and in the absence of readily available fit testing, there is a growing consensus to use non fit tested FFP2 masks as a default when seeing patients. A well-fitting FFP2 with a decent seal will provide better protection than a [fluid-resistant surgical mask]’.

GPC England has further ‘called on NHSEI to make available or reimburse associated costs for use of FFP2/3 masks and they have written to NHSEI asking for provision of FFP2 as a default for all practices’, it added.

It comes as the BMA informed GPs in December that they could now order FFP3 masks free of charge in special circumstances.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has agreed to ‘arrange access to FFP3s’, so long as it has been informed of a local risk assessment through which GP staff have ‘been assessed as needing FFP3’, it the GPC said.

The BMA had written to the Government to demand higher-grade PPE to protect GPs and their staff as the Omicron variant began to spread, with Pulse reporting that GPs were forced to buy their own higher grade PPE to protect staff.

According to the BMA, the DHSC ‘has subsequently confirmed’ that if ‘a local risk assessment has been undertaken and primary care providers have been assessed as needing FFP3, the DHSC’s PPE portal should be contacted with the result of the risk assessment and they will arrange access to FFP3s’.

It added: ‘Staff would need to be fit tested to FFP3s before the PPE portal can give access to the appropriate masks to which staff have been fitted.’

Current infection prevention and control (IPC) Government guidance still recommends ‘face coverings or surgical masks (Type II or IIR) to prevent the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory infectious agents in health and care settings’ for ‘all staff, patients and visitors’.

But the guidance was updated on 21 December in response to Omicron and now advises: ‘Where an unacceptable risk of transmission remains following the hierarchy of controls risk assessment, it may be necessary to consider the use of [respiratory protective equipment] for patient care in specific situations when managing respiratory infectious agents. 

‘The risk assessment should include evaluation of the ventilation in the area, operational capacity, and prevalence of infection/new SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern in the local area.’

It comes as the Government is considering extending its free personal protective equipment (PPE) scheme for GPs for a further 12 months after March 2022.

In November, the Government said PPE was the least effective in their hierarchy of measures in an update to IPC guidance.

READERS' COMMENTS [14]

Nicholas Sharvill 6 January, 2022 12:01 pm

re Masks.
It is interesting to see European TV where FFP2 masks seem the norm for most of the population and always for health care workers

Dave Haddock 6 January, 2022 12:06 pm

GP tells BMA to F*** off.

Turn out The Lights 6 January, 2022 12:25 pm

Too late baby caught COVID despite double jabbed +bolstered and following what was then standard PPE advice.Spose I got some natural immunity now ther but for the grace of god go I.

Hello My name is 6 January, 2022 1:26 pm

i’m not a member of the BMA…

john mccormack 6 January, 2022 2:04 pm

Then why are we not being provided with them free of charge ?

Kevlar Cardie 6 January, 2022 2:57 pm

Dear General Melchett,

What Spaffer Johnson doesn’t mention when he talks about mobilising the Defence Medical Services is that the majority of them are reservists , the bulk of which are ALREADY committed to an NHS clinical role.

Those that are regular, serving military doctors, nurses, physios, lab techs, radiographers etc are ALREADY working flat out looking after NHS/ MoD patients in NHS and MoD Hospital Units.

There is NO big box of military medics to plunder, chum. It’s already been emptied by numerous defence cuts.

I have the honour to be, Sir, your Obedient Servant,

Toodle pip.

Captain K Darling MC

Sonia Chester 6 January, 2022 4:01 pm

At long last. UK is so far behind the curve in this respect. I’ve worn my own FFP2 since 1st wave & in the minority not to get infected at work. Our PPE guidelines are not fit for purpose & so many HCW been seriously ill or suffering long Covid as a result. At this stage it’s negligence to suggest FRSM are adequate.

Dave Haddock 6 January, 2022 5:22 pm

“Then why are we not being provided with them free of charge ?”

Because GP Practices are independent contractors?

Patrufini Duffy 6 January, 2022 5:49 pm

After 2 years – I am so glad we have advanced our thinking here and got this clarified. Like telling a fireman to take some water with him.

Alison SMITH 7 January, 2022 9:48 am

A good start would be for patients to wear a mask (correctly) when they turn up, rather than spouting the usual waffle about beimg ‘exempt’. It wouls be nice to have back-up to enforce mask-wearing (probably the only exemption should be for people with severe LD or cognitive issues).

It would also be nice if patients stopped saying: “I know it isn’t Covid”, when feebly explaining why they haven’t bothered to get a PCR test, for their barn-door Covid symptoms.

Decent masks would be great, too.

Patrufini Duffy 7 January, 2022 4:07 pm

Spiderman and Batman wear masks. They earn good dollar.
Face-to-face could be rebranded as Face-to-Scapula or Face-to-Occiput. Not entirely sure the quality of history taking or non-verbal cues will be massively augmented versus the beleaguered attitude to phonecall for a panic attack or fungal toenail.

Dave Haddock 8 January, 2022 7:34 pm

“is interesting to see European TV where FFP2 masks seem the norm for most of the population and always for health care workers”
Does not seem to be helping the Germans much, far stricter enforcement than here yet health system in crisis.

David Ansell 10 January, 2022 2:32 pm

Yes, I have been wearing my own supplied FFP2 masks since the outset almost 2 years ago now. I paid £200 +£75 customs duty to DHL to air freight me 100 masks from china, and I continue to buy them myself. They are tax deductible and worth the personal expense…
Yes, my partner and children use them too.

We have so far remained covid free, even though I have been seeing Hot patients as a GP, from the very outset.
For Hot patients I now add a second NHS surgical mask over it.