The pandemic has forced all of us to make significant changes to our lives. Now, with vaccinations, social distancing, and lockdowns all working to drive down infection rates, we are hopefully much close to the end than the beginning.
That said, it’s important we recognise this is potentially a time of risk. With shops and hospitality reopening, social mixing allowed outdoors and likely soon indoors, we need to all understand and stick to the protocols. Not doing so puts the progress we have made at risk.
Until NHS and government guidance says otherwise, we need to keep social distancing from others, wearing masks or face coverings, and only socialising within the existing restrictions.
For information on the current restrictions, and proposed next set of changes, visit the NHS website:
For us in the NHS, our job continues to be treating patients to the best of our abilities while reducing the risk of spreading infection. And the nature of general practice means it is sometimes more complicated than ‘no mask, no service’.
Masks and Face coverings in the NHS
Since last June, masks or face coverings have been mandatory for all staff and patients in an NHS setting, with some exemptions based on age, health or disability.
If a patient comes to the practice and is unable to wear a mask, then it is our responsibility to make reasonable adjustments to reduce the potential spread of infection. This means asking patients to wait outside rather than in the waiting room. We will also look to see if remote consultations are possible as an alternative option.
Should an unmasked patient need a face to face appointment, then we will make every attempt to make that happen.
This does then bring in another factor, as consulting in person with an unmasked patient puts a clinician at increased risk of infection. It then becomes an individual choice for the clinicians whether they are willing to accept that risk, and as we know the severity of those risk factors varies from person to person.
As an employer, we can’t compel a staff member to act in a way that compromises their health and safety. This potentially means that we may need to reach a compromise with the patient over who consults with them, when and where.
The covid guidelines, our duty of care as a health care provider and our responsibilities as an employer make this potential situation complex. That’s why we wanted to take the time to set out the risk factors and potential adjustments that we need to consider, in the best interests of staff and patients.
Vaccine updates and Reopening
We’ll continue to post our regular updates on the vaccination programme and the status for each priority group. You can find our most recent update here. As restrictions are lifted and things gradually reopen and we approach normal, we will continue to communicate that to patients and our community too.