Massive change to face mask rules as coverings SCRAPPED across hospitals under new rules | The Sun

FACE mask rules have been SCRAPPED across all hospitals and GP clinics in a major guidelines change.

Instead, individual hospitals are free to draft their own policies on whether or not face coverings need to be worn.

NHS England highlighted new infection control guidance – set out by the UK Health Security Agency – in a letter to all local health bodies.

Patients visiting GP surgeries or hospital outpatient appointments and people attending A&E no longer need to wear masks "unless this is a personal preference", the letter states.

But those with respiratory symptoms – such as a cough – should wear a face mask or face covering "if tolerated".

Patients admitted to hospital with Covid-19 or suspected to have Covid should be provided with a face mask when they are admitted to a ward or in a communal area "if this can be tolerated and it is deemed safe for the patient", the letter adds.

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Some GP surgeries and health centres have already taken down signs telling patients to wear masks on entry.

But a number of hospitals have called on patients and staff to continue to wear masks and face coverings on their sites.

Covid-19 patients in single rooms will not usually be required to wear a mask under the guidance.

Hospital patients who do not have Covid do not need to wear a face mask unless it is their "personal preference", the letter adds.

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But they may be asked to in some high risk areas such as cancer units, blood disorder treatment services or elderly care wards.

Healthcare staff are advised to continue wearing masks in high-risk areas – but the rules should be "guided by local assessment".

Staff who could come into contact with someone with Covid-19 should also wear masks as part of their personal protective equipment (PPE).

This could include those in Covid wards, A&E departments and GP surgeries.

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Universal mask wearing by staff should be considered when there is a local outbreak of cases, the guidance adds.

Staff no longer need to wear masks in non-clinical areas such as staff rooms and offices.

The letter adds that any infection control measures above and beyond those set out in national guidance are "a matter for local discretion".

It also suggests that most visiting rules should be reverted back to pre-pandemic policies.

Visitors may be asked to wear face masks in high risk areas but won't be routinely asked to wear masks when accompanying patients to other areas of hospitals, "although they may be encouraged to do so following a local risk assessment", the letter adds.

MASK OFF

The letter, penned by NHS England's national medical director, Professor Sir Stephen Powis, and Duncan Burton, deputy chief nursing officer for England, suggests that it may take some time for the policies to bed in.

But hospitals are already setting out guidance for their local populations.

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals in Yorkshire has asked patients, visitors and staff to continue wearing masks.

Meanwhile, Bradford Teaching Hospitals has also asked visitors to keep covering their noses and mouths.

But Ashford and St Peter's Hospitals in Surrey says visitors and those accompanying outpatients do not need to wear masks.

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And Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has also lifted the rules – with some exceptions.

These include the higher risk oncology and haematology inpatient and outpatient areas.

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