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Face masks to become compulsory in GP practices

Wearing of face masks will become mandatory in GP practices from next Monday, according to a letter sent out by NHS England.

The information is buried within a system letter sent yesterday to commissioners and practices.

It says that ‘a surgical face mask’ should be worn ‘when not in PPE’ or in a ‘Covid-secure’ part of the facility.

It comes as the BMA called for compulsory face masks in GP practices last weekend, following the Government’s announcement that they would be mandatory for staff and visitors in hospitals.

But NHS England’s letter said that the guidance ‘will also apply’ to primary care.

It read: ‘As announced by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, from the 15 June, the recommendation will be that all staff in hospital wear a surgical face mask when not in PPE or in a part of the facility that is Covid-secure in line with the workplace definition set by the Government.

‘The guidance will also apply to other NHS healthcare settings, including primary care, and will be published this week by Public Health England.’

An NHS England spokesperson told Pulse that the recommendations do not come from NHS England, but rather the health secretary, and that any further guidance will be issued by PHE.

BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘The BMA is clear that the latest rules around face coverings and hospitals must be extended to cover all health and social care settings, including general practice.

‘So this recommendation for all staff to wear masks is a step in the right direction and we await the guidance from Public Health England. However, it’s crucial that patients also wear face coverings when attending practices, as they are being told to in hospitals, in order to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.

‘As we have said, there must be a consistent approach that reflects our integrated health service and is not confusing for the public.

‘It is also vital that the supplies of medical masks in general practice are guaranteed to support this move and that the public are clear about the type of face covering they need and how to wear it.

‘These measures are vital if we are to protect patients, the NHS workforce and the nation’s health.’ 

Pulse has approached PHE for comment.