This site is intended for health professionals only


Patients no longer required to wear face masks in GP practices

face masks

Patients who enter GP practices in England are no longer required to wear a face mask unless they have respiratory symptoms.

Updated guidance says patients, apart from those with respiratory symptoms, are ‘not required’ to wear a face mask unless they wish to as a ‘personal preference’.

However, health and care staff should continue to wear face masks as part of PPE when working with suspected or confirmed Covid-19 patients, including those working with untriaged patients in primary care.

In a letter to CCGs and trusts, sent on 1 June, NHS England set out changes to infection prevention and control (IPC) measures following updates from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) with new Covid-19 pathogen-specific advice.

The letter said: ‘This [working with suspected Covid-19 patients] is likely to include settings where untriaged patients may present such as emergency departments or primary care, depending on local risk assessment.’

It added that in non-clinical areas such as offices and social settings, staff do not need to wear masks unless it is a personal preference to, or if there are issues raised by risk assessments.

Any IPC measures beyond the updated guidance are a matter for ‘local discretion’, the letter said.

NHS England added that all healthcare settings ‘should now be transitioning back towards their own pre-pandemic policies’ on inpatient visiting and patients being accompanied in urgent and emergency care (UEC), outpatient or primary care services.

It said the expected position was that no patient should be alone during their treatment unless this is their choice.

It said: ‘We understand there may be a period of transition as providers make changes to their operating procedures, especially given local variation in Covid-19 infection levels.’

In April, NHS England said all patients, staff and visitors should continue to practise good hand and respiratory hygiene including the continued use of face masks.

Guidance in full

Health and care staff:

  • Health and care staff should continue to wear facemasks as part of personal protective equipment required for transmission-based precautions when working in Covid-19/respiratory care pathways, and when clinically caring for suspected/confirmed Covid-19 patients. This is likely to include settings where untriaged patients may present such as emergency departments or primary care, depending on local risk assessment. In all other clinical care areas, universal masking should be applied when there is known or suspected cluster transmission of SARS-CoV-2, eg during an outbreak, and/or if new SARS-CoV-2 VOC emerge.
  • Health and care staff are in general not required to wear facemasks in non-clinical areas eg offices, social settings, unless this is their personal preference or there are specific issues raised by a risk assessment. This should also be considered in community settings.

Outpatients, UEC and primary care:

  • Patients with respiratory symptoms who are required to attend for emergency treatment should wear a facemask/covering, if tolerated, or offered one on arrival.
  • All other patients are not required to wear a facemask unless this is a personal preference.

Source: NHS England

READERS' COMMENTS [12]

Nick Mann 8 June, 2022 12:03 pm

Staff do, but patients don’t?! Divisive, unscientific meddling again from NHSE. Are they deliberately fuelling the violence against staff so recently reported?

Michael Mullineux 8 June, 2022 12:11 pm

Idiotic, politically -driven, micro-managing advice as usual from NHSE (whilst continuing to work remotely from home…) Without community testing and the carry on regardless ‘strategy’, how do you know who is positive and not? Absolute BS.

Robert James Andrew Mackenzie Koefman 8 June, 2022 12:13 pm

amazing when there seems to be more covid around again ( having had twice already). Shows no respect for healthcare professionals as usual

Douglas Callow 8 June, 2022 12:15 pm

they will be wearing masks in our surgery

Grant Jonathan Ingrams 8 June, 2022 12:51 pm

This is guidance and not instruction. Each practice must make it’s own mind up. Even the guidance says practices need to take into account local circumstances. Every practice has a legal duty under Health and Safety legislation to protect their staff and everyone on the premises from risk , including infection. So every practices needs to do their own risk assessment and decide. Although NHS E feel they can dictate what practices do, they can’t!!

Sarah Galbraith 8 June, 2022 3:50 pm

Bizarre masks still worn….primary care population similar to supermarkets/ trains/airports/ restaurants/ chemists shops etc etc
Of course lots of pos cases (nb note cross reaction with Coronavirus common colds when testing (20% or so of common colds have always been coronavirus).

Anyhow I am not a GP any more (thank goodness: shit job). IMHO as private businesses the partnerships should simply make their own minds up what they wish to do.

Patrufini Duffy 8 June, 2022 4:10 pm

They will be without question.
The last time I read Government advice on masks they killed off quite a few people.
Is the mask spoiling their tans or autonomy? What privilege.

Patrick Mcnally 8 June, 2022 4:13 pm

Misleading headline.
Not up to NHSE to decide what is “required” in GP practices.
It is up to the GP practice.

As always, I go back to my favourite bit of GMS:
The Contractor must provide:
(a) services required for the management of the Contractor’s
registered patients and temporary residents who are, or believe themselves to be:
(i) ill with conditions from which recovery is generally expected;
(ii) terminally ill; or
(iii) suffering from chronic disease,
which are delivered in the manner determined by the Contractor’s practice in discussion with the patient.

So:
“Wear a mask”
“no”
“ok lets agree how to do your healthcare in the car park”…

Patrufini Duffy 8 June, 2022 4:23 pm

Dreamland noises:
Patient collects routine NHS health check blood form
She **wants “hormones” added to it
Reception says she can’t add “hormones”
Reception offer patient appointment in 1 week to discuss her “hormones” request with GP
Patient says I want it now, how do I get it now!
(Because her “friend got one” somewhere else)
Reception says you have the option of private
But you have an appointment booked
Patient wants to complain

Should’ve double masked.
Should’ve laid out some red carpet

David Church 8 June, 2022 9:49 pm

As some have rightly pointed out, all GMS-contracting surgeries, (and some others), it is up to the employer to compile a risk asssessment, and make an informed local decision, incorporating the duty to protect staff and other persons on the premisses, and they can insist on face-masks if they wish.
I was particularly perturbed to hear that some respiratpry condition specialist groups were advising patients with CVD and COPD to NOT wear masks : these are precisely the group for whom covid presents a greater risk, and therefore it is far more important that they are protected by a properly fitting high-grade mask !
The long-covid sequelae rate is estimated scientifically in studies to be about 10 to 15 %; and about 10% additionally to be significantly unwell for more that just a few days, during EACH infection, and that infections with different strains may occur within days, but repeat infections with same strain may be occuring as early as 3-4 weeks after previous infection.
So any relapse of infection control mesures could put more staff off sick, limiting availability to provide care, and put the population generally at higher risk of frequent repeat infections until everyone has long-covid…. And that will not help NHS waiting lists, now will it?

Dave Haddock 9 June, 2022 8:49 pm

Some of us have been telling patients that they can take masks off since long before last Christmas. And to come to surgery rather than fobbing people off by ‘phone.

SUBHASH BHATT 10 June, 2022 1:40 pm

Seems ok to me. Just use common sense.