Patients must still wear face masks in GP practices, NHS England says

In a letter published on Wednesday, NHS England highlighted rules that may be changing as a result of the Prime Minister’s plan, which he set out earlier this week.

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Patients will still be required to wear face masks in GP practices and hospitals, NHS England has said, even as the Government’s “living with Covid” strategy comes into effect.

In a letter published on Wednesday, NHS England highlighted rules that may be changing as a result of the Prime Minister’s plan, which he set out earlier this week.

There will be “no immediate changes” to infection prevention and control requirements, it said, adding: “This includes the requirement for staff, patients and visitors to wear a mask/face covering in healthcare settings.”

From Thursday, people who test positive for Covid are no longer legally obliged to self-isolate under Boris Johnson’s plan.

But NHS England said its workers should continue to stay home and follow previous rules if they are infected.

“Healthcare staff who have tested positive for Covid-19 should not attend work until they have had two negative LFD (lateral flow device) test results taken 24 hours apart,” NHS England said, adding that the first test should be taken no earlier than day five after the initial positive result.

GP practices “must ensure” that Covid-positive staff are not required to work, it added.

The letter said updated guidance for staff and patients exposed to the virus will be released by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) on Thursday.

With the Government axing free Covid testing for most of the general public in England from April 1, NHS England said it will write to staff “in the coming weeks” with details of testing protocols for patients and staff.

Current testing protocols will stay will be in place until then, with NHS staff still having to report the results of their twice-weekly asymptomatic tests.

Restrictions on visiting hospitals are being reviewed, NHS England said.

“We will be communicating the outcome of this review shortly so that visitors can attend hospitals and healthcare settings in a manner that continues to protect patients and staff,” it wrote.

NHS Providers criticised the “lack of clarity” over future changes to staff testing and visiting guidance.

Its deputy chief executive Saffron Cordery said trust leaders are “now operating in an uncertain environment as they wait for clarification”.

She said: “The current lack of clarity over future changes to staff testing is a cause of concern. Trusts expect a delay of several weeks while the specific detail of the various testing protocols for patients and staff are confirmed…

“Similarly, trust leaders are also awaiting further clarity on visitor restrictions, and guidance for staff and patients who have been exposed to Covid-19 – both of which are important in preventing the spread of Covid-19 in healthcare settings.”