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Increase in patients ignoring mask rules, BMA says

by Jess Hacker
16 August 2021

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There has been an increase in the number of patients not wearing masks in practices and other healthcare settings, despite it remaining mandatory, the BMA Northern Ireland has said.

Dr David Farren, deputy chair of BMA Northern Ireland’s consultants committee, said today (16 August) that this is ‘extremely challenging for medical staff’ as these patients must then be treated as though they have Covid.

He urged patients to wear a mask, adding that ‘staff will challenge this if you do not’, and that it is ‘unacceptable for this to be met with aggression’.

It comes after a recent survey revealed that as many as 75% of practice managers, practice nurses and GPs in England say they have suffered verbal abuse from patients during the programme.

Meanwhile, Dr Alan Stout from the BMA GP committee said that GPs have worked ‘extremely hard to keep their premises open’ and safe for practice staff.

‘Increasingly we are being challenged by patients who simply don’t want to wear a mask, not because they have a valid exemption,’ he said, adding that having to work around these patients is time consuming and redirects staff time.

‘We have some very vulnerable patients attending our surgeries and it is vital that we do everything we can to ensure their safety and confidence.’

Similarly, a BMA survey of more than 2,400 doctors in England, Wales and Northern Ireland revealed that more than half of GPs have faced verbal abuse from patients or those accompanying them in the last month, with one in five threatened.

NHS England in July said that masks and social distancing rule will remain mandatory in all healthcare settings.