Don’t forget your face covering when visiting your local hospital or GP practice

Face coverings must now be worn in all NHS healthcare settings in line with Government advice, including GP practices.

Under new rules announced by the Government face coverings must be worn in shops, supermarkets, shopping centres, train stations and other indoor locations.  They should also be worn in NHS settings, including hospitals and GP surgeries.

This could be a disposable or reusable mask-type covering, or a scarf or other suitable fabric that fits securely around the side of the face.

Exemptions for face coverings apply to very young children, disabled patients and those with breathing difficulties. Exemption cards are available to download here.  

GP practices have already changed the way they are doing things to make it safer for patients to come into the surgery. Staff wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) including face masks and wherever possible social distancing guidelines are maintained.

Most appointments are still happening over the phone or using video consultation, but patients are being seen face to face for urgent appointments, and routine screenings for things like childhood vaccinations or cervical smear tests.

People are still asked to call ahead and not go to their GP practice unless advised.

Dr Anoop Dhesi, a local GP and Chair of NHS Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “Please wear a face covering to help to protect yourself, your family, your community and NHS services. Be prepared by carrying a face covering with you and using it carefully when it is needed.

“Face coverings can help stop the spread of coronavirus by preventing you from inadvertently passing on the disease to others if you have it but are not showing symptoms. By wearing a face covering, you’ll be helping us to make sure our GP practices remain safe places for people to receive care.

“It’s important to remember that, even if you do wear a face covering, it’s still so important to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds on a regular basis, especially if you have returned home from a public place.

“If you do have coronavirus symptoms – such as a high temperature or continuous cough, you should stay indoors and isolate at home, do not come into a GP practice.

“Remember that face coverings are not an alternative to social distancing, good hand washing and good hygiene. Taken together, these are the most important and effective measures that we can all take to prevent the spread of coronavirus.”

Dr Dhesi is also reminding residents that GP practices are open for business and it’s really important that you seek medical care if you or your family need it.

He said: “It’s really important that people don’t "put off" contacting their local surgery for any health concerns or ongoing health issues. Some conditions may get worse when they could have been treated more easily at an earlier stage. Likewise, if it’s an emergency you should attend A&E.

“If you are concerned about seeking medical help because of Covid-19, do not let this stop you attending A&E in an emergency or to contact your GP as you normally would. 

“Another option is the NHS walk-in centre in Norwich which is open between 7am and 9pm every day. The nurse-led centre can help with a range of minor illness and injuries, including minor cuts and wounds, strains and sprains, skin complaints etc. You will be triaged at the front door and signposted elsewhere or treated accordingly.”

The symptoms of Covid-19 are a new, continuous cough, a temperature, or losing your sense of taste or smell. You can book a coronavirus test either by visiting https://www.gov.uk/apply-coronavirus-test or by calling 119 if you don’t have access to the internet.

Key workers in Norfolk and Waveney can also book a test at their local hospital. To find out more visit: https://www.norfolkandwaveneyccg.nhs.uk/coronavirus-testing