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RCGP: masks should remain in use in practices past 19 July

by Jess Hacker
12 July 2021

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Masks and other measures designed to control the spread of Covid-19 should remain in place in GP practices beyond 19 July, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has said.

It said that the Government’s decision to remove all Covid-19 restrictions from next week will lead to an ‘inevitable’ increase in Covid-19 infections, which will have ‘significant implications for general practice’.

Acknowledging the impact of lockdowns on patients’ mental and physical health, RCGP chair, Professor Martin Marshall, said that the College sees ‘both sides of the argument’ for easing restrictions.

‘But the safety of patients, and those delivering their care, must be paramount. This is why we are calling for the continued use of masks, and other appropriate infection control measures, in general practice settings post-19 July,’ he said.

He added that the College believes extending these measures in primary care settings is a ‘reasonable and proportionate response’ to rising case numbers.

This comes after the Government announced that vaccinated GPs will no longer need to self-isolate from 16 August if they are identified as a close contact of someone with Covid-19.

Intense workload

Professor Marshall also said that practice teams have been at the ‘forefront of delivering physical and psychological support’ for those with long Covid.

He added that easing restrictions may increase the number of patients living with the condition which will have ‘long-term implications for the nation’s health’.

The latest data shows an estimated 962,000 people in the UK have self-reported experiencing long Covid symptoms lasting more than four weeks.

Meanwhile, practice staff have already been working under ‘intense workload and workforce pressures’ throughout the vaccine rollout, he said, with as many as three-quarters of staff receiving abuse from patients during the campaign.

He said: ‘In the face of rising case numbers, we need clarity on how GPs should be expected to prioritise their workload and ensure effective infection control in primary care settings – as well as what the advice is for patients who have symptoms that may be Covid, given our enhanced understanding of the virus.’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to confirm today (12 July) that the lifting of remaining Covid restrictions will go ahead as planned.