Guidance for patients requesting face covering letters:
As you may know, it is obligated by law to wear face coverings on public transport and in shops and supermarkets from 24th July 2020. You are also strongly encouraged to wear a face covering in other enclosed public spaces where social distancing may be difficult and where you come into contact with people you do not normally meet.
We appreciate some patients might understandably be anxious about the Government’s recent announcements around the use of ace masks/coverings in various public settings. Some have expressed concerns about face coverings possibly affecting oxygen levels in the body. Thankfully, there is no scientific proof to show a relationship between face coverings and oxygen levels. Wearing face covering is extremely safe and does not cause oxygen levels in the body to fall.
Face coverings are not classified as PPE (personal protective equipment), but have been proven to reduce droplet spread, and can protects others against the spread of infection. Therefore, the collective wearing of face coverings can help us all to protect each other and reduce spread of COVID-19.
In settings where face coverings are mandated in England, there are some circumstances, for health, age or equality reasons, whereby people are not expected to wear face coverings. You do not need to wear a face covering if you have a legitimate reason not to. This includes:
1. Young children under the age of 11.
2. Not being able to put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability.
3. If putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress.
4. If you are travelling with or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading to communicate.
5. To avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury to yourself or others.
6. To avoid injury, or to escape risk of harm, and you do not have a face covering with you.
7. If a police officer or other official requests you to remove your face covering.
There are also scenarios when you are permitted too remove your face covering when asked:
1. If asked to do so by shop staff for the purpose of age identification.
2. If speaking with people who rely on lip reading, facial expressions and clear sound.
The Government guidance on exemptions suggests there is no requirement for evidence for exemption therefore it is sufficient for an individual to self-declare this. GP’s are unfortunately not in a position to provide individual risk assesments or letters for patiens who feel that they should be exempt from wearing a face mask/covering. Practices are under no obligation to provide letters of support for anyone who does not fall under the list of exemptions, but who consider themselves to have another reason to be exempted.
With respect to public transport, the reponsibilty for issuing exemptions lies with the transport provider not your GP. The same applies with shops and supermarkets, who reserve the right to refuse entry to their premises to those not wearing face coverings to protect their patrons. Please see Gov.uk for more guidance.
Dr Sewell and Partners