GP: Patients could be asked to wear masks during routine consultations

Patients could be asked to wear a face mask during routine consultations with GPs, a doctors’ leader in Northern Ireland has said.

Concerns have arisen over the use of personal protective equipment during non-coronavirus-related appointments, a professional body for medics added.

Robust measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus in surgeries are in place and those displaying symptoms are urged not to attend, public health experts have said.

Royal College of GPs in Northern Ireland chairman Dr Laurence Dorman said: “I want to reassure both GPs and patients that their safety is paramount, and, in line with our colleagues in England, Scotland and Wales, we support the use of PPE when carrying out face-to-face consultations with patients.

“This could extend in some circumstances to inviting a patient to wear a mask.

“These patients may be asymptomatic and not exhibiting signs of the virus, but GPs must keep themselves and their patients safe during these unprecedented times in keeping with Public Health England guidance.”

Meanwhile, the number of children attending GP surgeries and hospital emergency departments is lower than normal, public health doctors said.

A senior paediatric consultant urged parents and carers to be vigilant to other childhood illnesses during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Public Health Agency (PHA) said help and support is available for those who need medical attention.

Dr Joanne McClean, consultant in public health medicine with the PHA, said: “We know that parents want to do the very best they can to protect and care for their children.

“While it is essential to be aware of and follow the guidance associated with Covid-19, it is also important that parents trust their instinct. If you feel your child is unwell and needs medical attention, please seek help.”

She added: “While many children will be receiving appropriate care and treatment at home, we do not want parents to be put off bringing their children for medical attention because they are concerned about overloading the service or afraid that their child may come into contact with Covid-19 in a healthcare setting.”

She said robust infection control procedures are in place in health and social care settings to reduce the risk of spread of the infection.

“While children can become sick as a result of Covid-19, the experience across the world has been that the illness is not common in children and most will not become seriously unwell if they contract it.”