New face mask policy should include all healthcare settings – BMA

New face-covering measures for hospitals should be extended to include GP surgeries and social care settings, the British Medical Association (BMA) said.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced on Friday that all hospital visitors and outpatients will need to wear face coverings, and hospital staff must use surgical masks as of June 15.

But the BMA, which represents all doctors in the UK, has called on the Government to “ensure consistency” with its policy by extending face covering measures across primary care and all other healthcare settings.

BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: “The newly announced face-covering measures in hospitals must also be extended to cover GP surgeries and other health, community and social care settings.

“As this virus knows no boundaries, it is important that there is consistency around face coverings that applies throughout healthcare settings, reflective of the integrated health care system we have.”

Dr Nagpaul said it was also “extremely concerning to hear” that there had been no consultation with hospital trusts on the face mask policy changes and how they will work in practice.

He said: “If we are to have confidence in the Government’s ability to deliver on this, they must be forthcoming immediately on the details of how this will work.

“Whilst many GP practices have taken major steps to reduce face-to-face consultations, encouraging patients to wear a face-covering when attending a practice will help further protect staff and patients.”

In a statement, Dr Nagpaul said “serious concerns” also remain around the availability of medical masks in general practice and community settings.

He said the Government must ensure there are sufficient supplies of masks across all healthcare settings and be “very clear” with the public about the type of covering they need.

His comments come as NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson criticised the Government for not consulting NHS trusts on the face- covering policy changes.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday: “I think it’s the latest in a long line of announcements that have had a major impact on the way the NHS operates in which those frontline organisations feel they have been left completely in the dark and they are then expected to make significant and complex operational changes either immediately or with very little notice.”

Announcing the new policy at Friday evening’s Downing Street coronavirus press conference, Mr Hancock said the Government wanted to ensure that “even as the virus comes under control”, hospitals are a place of “care and of safety”.

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