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Government faces call to make face masks mandatory in healthcare settings, as laws extend to cinemas and churches

Post date: 07/08/2020 | Time to read article: 2 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 10/08/2020

84% of healthcare professionals believe it should be mandatory for those attending any healthcare setting to wear a face covering, according to a Medical Protection poll.

In the snapshot survey by the leading protection organisation for healthcare professionals, 473 of the 562 members surveyed, said the requirement for face coverings for those attending a healthcare facility should be the same as for those travelling on public transport.

Laws setting out where it is mandatory to wear face coverings in England have so far applied to public transport and shops and have today (8 August) been extended to include other settings such as cinemas, places of worship and veterinary practices - but have excluded healthcare settings.

The Government has said face coverings are “needed” in NHS settings including hospitals and GP surgeries, however it is not a legal requirement to wear one. NHS England has also told GP’s that patients should not be refused entry or care if they are unable - or refuse to - wear a mask. It said this position should be clearly communicated to patients.

Dr Pallavi Bradshaw, Medicolegal Lead, Risk Prevention at Medical Protection, said: “The strength of feeling on this issue is clear – valid exemptions aside, healthcare workers believe it should be mandatory for those attending a healthcare facility to wear a face covering. This would seem in keeping with the other settings where the new rules are legally enforceable.

“While most patients are wearing face coverings, we have had members seeking advice on how to handle situations where patients refuse to wear a mask without a valid reason – these situations can be confrontational and distressing to other patients.

“The exclusion of healthcare settings in the latest extension of the law will leave many healthcare workers, who are still under immense pressure due to the pandemic, feeling that their safety is not a priority. We know many are concerned about the risk they pose to their families owing to their role and these fears remain if the work environment is not the safest it could possibly be.

“It cannot be right that those who have been at the forefront of the fight against Covid-19 should be put at unnecessary risk by patients who refuse to wear a face mask, because it is not compulsory. Doctors of course have a professional obligation to act in the interests of society, but that ethical principle could be jeopardised if the interests of one individual is given precedence and puts the health of other patients at risk.

“We urge the Government to reconsider and make the use of face coverings mandatory in all healthcare settings for patients and visitors.”

ENDS

For further information contact: ione.gyamfi@medicalprotection.org

  • Government guidance on when to wear a face mask to date (due to be updated on 8 August).
  • Medical Protection undertook a snapshot poll of 562 members on 30 July 2020:
Q. Should wearing a mask when attending a healthcare facility for treatment be mandatory (as per current position with public transport)?
53 = No
36 = Not sure
473 = Yes
Total = 562

About MPS

The Medical Protection Society Limited (“MPS”) is the world’s leading protection organisation for doctors, dentists and healthcare professionals. We protect and support the professional interests of more than 300,000 members around the world. Membership provides access to expert advice and support and can also provide, depending on the type of membership required, the right to request indemnity for any complaints or claims arising from professional practice.

Our in-house experts assist with the wide range of legal and ethical problems that arise from professional practice. This can include clinical negligence claims, complaints, medical and dental council inquiries, legal and ethical dilemmas, disciplinary procedures, inquests and fatal accident inquiries.

Our philosophy is to support safe practice in medicine and dentistry by helping to avert problems in the first place. We do this by promoting risk management through our workshops, E-learning, clinical risk assessments, publications, conferences, lectures and presentations.

MPS is not an insurance company. All the benefits of membership of MPS are discretionary as set out in the Memorandum and Articles of Association.


 

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