The British Medical Association (BMA) has called for clarity and adequate supply of face masks as new Government rules this week make it mandatory for hospital staff in England to wear face masks and patients and visitors to wear face coverings.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said: “It is imperative that we do all we can to prevent the spread of infection in healthcare settings, so that patients and visitors can attend hospital and GP practices without fear of contamination. The wearing of masks by staff and face coverings by the public will be key to enabling this.
“It is clear though that the Government has failed to properly plan for these changes which are now in effect and have left providers of NHS services confused and unprepared for how this will be implemented on the frontline.”
Furthermore, he said it is still unclear whether mandatory face coverings will extend to patients attending GP practices.
“The Government must urgently ensure that all hospitals are provided with adequate supplies of face masks as the now mandatory use in all areas of the hospital will inevitably lead to an increased demand, and these changes, as well as the additional supplies of masks, should also be extended to GP practices.
“Additionally, if patients or visitors arrive at hospital without a face covering, it is not appropriate that hospitals are expected to provide surgical masks for the public, as per the new guidance, nor have hospitals been provided with their own stock of face coverings.”
With PPE supply to NHS frontline staff being a major issue throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, “to place this burden on hospitals without providing additional resources is quite frankly unacceptable”.
“The Government must therefore also ensure that face coverings are made readily available and accessible to the public, as the BMA has called for previously,” he said.