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Infection control update recommends FFP3 face masks for general practice

FFP3 respirators 'must be worn' by all staff caring for patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, updated infection prevention and control (IPC) guidance has said.

Female doctor wearing an FFP3 face mask
(Picture: Evelien Doosje/Getty Images)

Updated IPC advice published on 17 January says that 'an FFP3 respirator (or equivalent), must be worn by staff when...caring for patients with a suspected or confirmed infection spread by the airborne route (during the infectious period)'.

Previous advice recommended higher-grade respiratory protection only when performing aerosol-generating procedures, despite pressure from clinicians for an overhaul.

The updated guidance adds that: 'Where a risk assessment indicates it, RPE should be available to all relevant staff. The risk assessment should include evaluation of the ventilation in the area, operational capacity, and prevalence of infection/new SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern in the local area. The hierarchy of controls can be used to inform the risk assessment. Staff should be provided with training on correct use.'

Ordering FFP3 masks

The BMA wrote to NHS England late last year demanding access for GPs and their teams to higher-grade masks, and warned at the time that there was 'no system in place to provide GPs with respirator masks, nor for fit testing'.

An NHS England update for general practice last week said the DHSC had 'confirmed FFP3 face masks are now available for general practices to order via the PPE portal'.

It added: 'Practices must have undertaken the necessary risk assessments and arranged for staff to have been fit tested before ordering the equipment. It is a legal requirement on employers that all tight fitting RPE, such as, FFP3 masks must be fit tested on all health and care staff who may be required to wear one to ensure an adequate seal/fit according to the manufacturer’s guidance.'

Download the full IPC guidance here

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