Last reviewed 29 July 2020

New Public Health England (PHE) guidance has said GPs, all clinical and non-clinical staff as well as patients should wear a face mask in practices if a local assessment concludes that it is necessary.

Effective from 13 July, the update said that in the first instance practices should ensure that they are "Covid-secure" through social distancing, hand hygiene, frequent surface decontamination, ventilation and other measures.

PHE said where this is not possible, there will be a local assessment to determine where staff should wear masks at all times.

This advice for GP practices now mirrors guidance in hospitals, which was announced in June. No legislation has mandated the wearing of masks, however, unlike in shops and public transport. The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) said recently that while it would strongly encourage patients to wear a mask when visiting GP practices, mandatory use "may have unintended consequences".

The new guidance states: "Providers of primary and community health services should ensure that measures are in place so that all settings are, where practicable, Covid-secure, using social distancing, optimal hand hygiene, frequent surface decontamination, ventilation and other measures where appropriate.

"Where a setting cannot be delivered as Covid-19 secure through all other means, a local assessment may conclude that primary and community healthcare staff (both in clinical and non-clinical roles), when not otherwise required to use personal protective equipment, should wear a face mask; worn to prevent the spread of infection from the wearer".

PHE recommends Type I or Type II face masks for all staff to prevent the spread of infection from the wearer. However Type IIR face masks are more readily available and can be used as an alternative to Type I or Type II masks.

PHE's New Recommendations for Primary and Community Health Care Providers in England is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-infection-prevention-and-control/new-recommendations-for-primary-and-community-health-care-providers-in-england