Having a consistent rule across all healthcare settings will avoid confusion for the public.
The British Medical Association (BMA) has called for face masks to become compulsory for patients visiting GP practices.
This followed recommendations from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) highlighting that face coverings can help reduce the risk of transmission if a patient is suffering from coronavirus, but not showing symptoms.
BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: “The newly announced face-covering measures in hospitals must also be extended to cover GP surgeries and other health, community and social care settings.
“As this virus knows no boundaries, it is important that there is consistency around face coverings that applies throughout healthcare settings, reflective of the integrated health care system we have.
“It is extremely concerning to hear that there has been no consultation with hospital trusts on how this will work in practice for them, or with GPs about any future plans. If we are to have confidence in the Government’s ability to deliver on this, they must be forthcoming immediately on the details of how this will work.
“Whilst many GP practices have taken major steps to reduce face-to-face consultations, encouraging patients to wear a face-covering when attending a practice will help further protect staff and patients.
“Having a consistent rule across all healthcare settings will avoid confusion for the public and make life easier for the staff and healthcare workers who will be trying to implement these safety measures.
“There remains a serious concern about the availability of medical masks in general practice and community settings and this must also be addressed as a matter of urgency. The Government must ensure that there are sufficient supplies of medical masks across all healthcare settings and be very clear with the public about what type of covering they need, how they need to wear it and where they need to get this from.
With the UK death toll now tragically over 40,000, the BMA says “it is absolutely crucial that the Government gets this right as protecting the health of the nation is paramount.”