Last reviewed 26 January 2022

Updated infection prevention and control (IPC) guidance from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has said that GPs treating patients with a “suspected or confirmed” Covid-19 infection must wear an FFP3 mask.

This follows a Government announcement that from 27 January 2022, face coverings will no longer be mandatory in public places.

NHS England’s Primary Care Bulletin responded by reminding primary care colleagues that the UKHSA’s IPC guidance remains in place for all staff and patients in GP practices, dental practices, optometrists and pharmacies “to ensure that everyone is protected”.

NHS England Medical Director for Primary Care Dr Nikki Kanani said: “Please continue to encourage patients to wear a face covering to keep staff and other patients safe.”

The UKHSA’s Infection Prevention and Control for Seasonal Respiratory Infections in Health and Care Settings (Including SARS-CoV-2) for Winter 2021 to 2022 has now been updated to state: “A respirator with an assigned protection factor (APF) 20, that is, an FFP3 respirator (or equivalent), must be worn by staff when…caring for patients with a suspected or confirmed infection spread by the airborne route (during the infectious period).”

It says it must also be used when performing aerosol-generating procedures (AGPs) on the same cohort of patients.

The UKHSA said that this guidance was updated to clarify the “wording around RPE” and reflect the change in isolation period in hospitals from 14 to 10 days for cases and contacts of cases of Covid-19.

NHS England’s GP Bulletin reiterated that GPs can now access FFP3s through the Government’s PPE portal if practices have “undertaken the necessary risk assessments and arranged for staff to have been fit tested before ordering the equipment”.

It said fit-testing is a legal requirement on employers for all tight-fitting RPE such as FFP3 masks.

Responding to the updated IPC guidance, British Medical Association (BMA) Occupational Medicine Co-chair Professor Raymond Agius said: “Almost two years into the pandemic and after tireless campaigning by the BMA, it is good to see that the IPC guidance relating to RPE has been changed to reflect undeniable evidence that Covid-19 spreads through the air.”