Should all practice staff wear a face mask? Your questions answered

The AOP has released new guidance for members in England, covering a range of topics including routine appointments and face masks

blue masks
Pixabay/Markus Winkler
The AOP has published new guidance for members in England after the Government announced that the alert level has shifted from three to four – meaning that transmission of COVID-19 is now high or rising exponentially.

The Government confirmed that all retail, hospitality and leisure workers would need to wear face masks from 24 September.

Other measures to restrict the spread of the virus included encouraging office staff to work from home where possible and the closure of hospitality and leisure businesses between 10pm and 5am.

The AOP has confirmed that all staff working in optical practices should be wearing at least a face mask – even if they are not involved in patient care.

The membership organisation also highlights that routine care can continue to be provided under alert level four.

Practices can continue to see all patients as long as they are implementing appropriate infection control procedures and have access to personal protective equipment.

If appointment availability is restricted, then practices should prioritise those patients with the greatest need.

The AOP provides clarification on what to do if a staff member displays symptoms consistent with COVID-19 or has a positive test result.

Guidance is provided on appointment times, with the AOP noting that while the association initially advised a slot of 45 minutes, practices may be able to offer shorter appointment times now processes have been refined and streamlined.

For example, a larger practice without occupancy concerns may safely see patients in a time of 30 to 40 minutes.

The AOP states that as healthcare environments practices are not required to display an official NHS QR poster or maintain records of people who enter the practice.

“Practices will normally have a list of the appointments they have seen on any given day with the relevant contact details for each patient,” the guidance highlights.