COVID-19 - GP guide personal protective equipment

20 March 2020

General guidance for GPs for using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). This information is true as of 20 March 2020. Consult our latest guidance and FAQ pages.

Droplet and faecal spread seem to be the primary forms of transmission of Corona viruses. Either direct contact with droplets coughed at you or onto surfaces that are then transferred to you are the principle concerns in General Practice.

COVID-19 - Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in General Practice discussion with RCGP Chair Martin Marshall and RCGP Treasurer Steve Mowle

Aerosol generating procedures, such as intubation, extubation and manual ventilation higher levels of personal protective equipment (PPE) are required.

The PPE required is therefore task specific and does not relate to how unwell the patient is. Guidance regarding PPE use during a resuscitation attempt will be included in future materials

For most patient encounters where COVID-19 disease is possible but aerosol generating procedures are not anticipated, must involve:

Hand Hygiene

This should involve hand washing prior to and after patient contact with soap and warm water ideally and needs to be facilitated by:

  • Bare to the elbows
  • Removal of all hand and wrist jewellery (Single metal ring bands are acceptable)
  • Clean short fingernails and no artificial nails or nail products
  • All cuts or abrasions covered with waterproof dressings

Basic Protection

  • Disposable aprons
  • Disposable gloves
  • Fluid resistant face mask
  • Eye protection should be worn when there is a risk of contamination to the eyes from splashing of secretions (including respiratory secretions), blood body fluids or excretions. An individual risk assessment should be carried out prior to/at the time of providing care

Eye/face protection can be achieved by the use of any one of the following:  

  • surgical mask with integrated visor
  • full face shield/visor
  • polycarbonate safety spectacles or equivalent

Face masks for general patient assessment only need to be Fluid resistant Surgical mask types. Higher levels of protection FFP-3 masks are used for aerosol generating procedures and need to be fit tested ideally. It is not anticipated that these will be needed in most General practice situations.

What is the efficacy of standard face masks compared to respirator masks in preventing COVID-type respiratory illnesses in primary care staff?  - Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine

Once worn masks should not be touched and should be changed if they become damp or damaged.

PPE procedures for Primary Care video

Donning PPE

  • Apron
  • Mask
  • Eye Protection
  • Gloves

Removing PPE

  • Gloves
  • Apron
  • Eye Protection
  • Mask
  • Wash Hands

Infection control measures as outlined on the UK Government website, including use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Post written by

Simon Stockley

Dr. Simon Stockley is the RCGP Clinical Champion for Sepsis, and represents the RCGP on the NHS England Cross-systems Sepsis Prevention Programme Board and the Academy of Royal Colleges Sepsis Group. A GP for 30 years, he has prepared multiple sepsis teaching and support aids for clinicians working in general practice.

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