Face coverings must still be worn in dental settings in England
LONDON, UK: Effective on 19 July, England eased many of its COVID-19 restrictions, including rules on social distancing and the requirement to wear face coverings in public places. However, although people in England are no longer obliged to wear face masks when entering establishments such as shops, healthcare organisations in the UK have recently urged the government to keep face masks mandatory in healthcare settings.
On 14 July, some of the most prominent healthcare organisations in the UK, including the British Dental Association (BDA), sent a letter to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging him to protect the public and healthcare staff from SARS-CoV-2 by retaining the requirement to wear face masks in healthcare settings. “As the rules change, this must be backed by clear government communications for the public, so that health and care staff are not caught in the middle and placed at increased risk of abuse,” the letter read.
Additionally, the healthcare organisations urged the government to supply health and care staff with appropriate levels of respiratory personal protective equipment and stated that professional bodies should continue to call for the use of FFP3 masks for staff who may come into close contact with confirmed or suspected SARS-CoV-2 patients in all settings of care.
After submission of the letter, Chief Nursing Officer for England Ruth May reminded the public about existing face mask and social distancing rules: “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 [general practitioner] surgery, pharmacy or any other healthcare settings for advice, care and treatment.”
Although the government lifted COVID-19 restrictions in many settings in England from Monday, the BDA has noted that Public Health England’s infection prevention control guidelines will remain in place for all staff and patients, and so will National Health Service (NHS) visitor guidance. This applies to various health services and includes dental practices, hospitals, general practitioner offices, optometrists and pharmacies. Additionally, besides using face coverings such as masks and other personal protective equipment, staff, patients and visitors will be expected to continue to follow social distancing rules when visiting any care setting.
“It is important for the public to continue to play their part when visiting NHS and care settings to help protect our staff and patients, particularly those who may be more vulnerable to infections,” May continued in a press release.
In the same press release, Health Minister Jo Churchill added: “Face coverings have played an important role in healthcare settings, helping protect vulnerable patients, staff and visitors by limiting the spread of this deadly disease and this guidance remains in place.”
Commenting on the issue, Eddie Crouch, chair of the BDA, said that face coverings, social distancing and handwashing remain fundamentals when visiting a dentist and are not optional extras and that wider changes that took place on Monday will not impact how the public should approach accessing healthcare services.