The following press release from NHS Leeds CCG details the requirement to wear face coverings when accessing health services in Leeds, including the groups of people who are exempt.

Anyone accessing health services in Leeds will be expected to wear a face covering as part of the city’s effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The advice issued by the NHS in Leeds builds on the Government’s announcement on 5 June telling people they must wear face coverings when accessing care in hospital. This means people in Leeds should wear a face covering when visiting GP practices, community health centres and hospitals in the city.

For some people, wearing a face covering may be difficult due to physical or mental health conditions. In these instances, other measures will be considered on a case by case basis, for example timed appointments and being seen immediately on arrival.

The following groups do not need to wear a face covering:

  • Young children under the age of three
  • Anyone with anatomical difficulties that would make wearing a face covering impossible or painful e.g. facial injuries
  • People with breathing difficulties
  • Anyone who experiences severe discomfort or distress while wearing a face covering such as those with severe claustrophobia

As part of measures to make sure staff and patients remain safe and protected from the spread of COVID-19, people will be asked to self-isolate for 14 days before any planned surgery. Everyone admitted for a planned operation will be tested to ensure they do not have COVID-19.

The NHS in Leeds is asking all patients to:

  • Wear a face covering. When attending appointments patients should wear a face mask or covering such as a homemade mask or scarf. All staff will also be wearing masks.
  • Arrive on time. All face-to-face appointments have been scheduled to minimise contact between patients so it is important that people don’t arrive too early to the clinic. Patients who arrive too early may be asked to leave and return at their allotted time.
  • Come by yourself. Patients should attend an appointment alone due to social distancing measures leading to reduced space in waiting areas, if a carer needs to attend they too will need to wear a face covering.
  • Clean your hands. Good hand hygiene, including regularly washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds can help reduce the spread of infection. People visiting hospital may also have their temperature checked on arrival. Most healthcare services will have hand sanitisers or handwashing facilities available.
  • Keep left and follow any instructions. Every effort has been made to facilitate social distancing – patients are being asked to keep their distance from other people when they are not in their appointment. Signs giving instructions are on display in all buildings.

Dr Simon Stockill, Medical Director for NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: “As a city we recognise the sacrifices people have made in response to COVID-19, as we slowly ease our way out from lockdown we want people to stay alert. That means we’re now asking all patients to wear a face covering when they come in for any health appointments in NHS buildings. Please also remember that face-to-face appointments will be offered where we need to see you physically or for any surgery, you must continue to call your GP practice or any other service and not walk-in without an appointment.

“Your local NHS is working hard to get services up and running again, however it’s important that this is done in a safely managed way. This means that priority will be given based on clinical urgency. If you were booked in for an operation, your local NHS will contact you in due course to explain the next steps, including any further delays you may experience. If, while waiting for your operation, you feel unwell please call your GP practice in the first instance or NHS 111.”

The announcement has been supported by Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Leeds GP Confederation, Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and NHS Leeds CCG.

People are encouraged to seek medical help should they fall ill or get injured. For conditions that need to be seen quickly but don’t need emergency care people should call NHS 111 or go online www.111.nhs.uk. Anyone concerned about cancer symptoms or an ongoing health condition should ring their GP practice. 999 and A&E should only be used for serious life or limb-threatening emergencies.

To find out how to access the right healthcare please visit www.leedsccg.nhs.uk/HereForYou