Masks and social distancing rules will remain mandatory in all healthcare settings including GP practices beyond 19 July, NHS England has confirmed.
Public Health England’s (PHE) infection prevention control guidelines and hospital visiting guidance are set to remain in place for staff and visitors, even as restrictions are eased elsewhere.
NHSE said today that visitors will need to abide these rules in ‘GP practices, dental practices, optometrists and pharmacies to ensure patients and staff are protected’.
This comes after a week of lobbying for the mandate by various NHS organisations and unions.
Chief nursing officer Ruth May today said: ‘Face coverings and social distancing measures will remain in place across healthcare settings so that the most vulnerable people can continue to safely attend hospital, their GP surgery, pharmacy or any other healthcare settings for advice, care and treatment.’
This is important particularly to protect ‘those who may be more vulnerable to infections’, she added.
She also said: ‘As restrictions are lifted in many places on Monday everyone has a part to play in helping to control Covid by getting vaccinated and acting responsibly.
‘It is vital that in healthcare settings, we do all we can to reduce the risk of infection for those working in our services and those who need our care.’
Meanwhile, interim RCN director of nursing, policy and public affairs Jude Diggins said: ‘The public understand the importance of face masks, social distancing and vigilant handwashing in all health and care settings.
These must continue in order to protect patients and nursing staff thus helping to ensure the NHS has the capacity to treat everyone who needs it if pressures keep increasing.”
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges said that ‘it is absolutely right that basic infection prevention and control measures stay in place in healthcare settings’.
She added: ‘Simple steps such as wearing a face mask and keeping a safe distance away from others are a minor inconvenience but could have a profound positive impact when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable and I strongly support the chief nurse with this clear reminder.’
A version of this article was originally published in Nursing in Practice sister publication Healthcare Leader.