Principles of care: patients who refuse to wear a mask

Published 21 October 2021
Patients who refuse to wear a mask (or have an exemption), may not be identified until they reach the practice. Again, there is a duty of care to see these patients if they are unwell. These patients should be managed by:

  • If they present without a mask, they should be asked to wait outside
  • The patient can be assessed outside (subject to privacy considerations), or they need to be offered a telehealth consult to manage their medical problems remotely
  • However, if a face-to-face consultation is deemed necessary, or the patient refuses the telehealth consult, then the patient will need to be seen by a clinician, who may or may not be their usual GP.
  • The patient should be treated as a 'red' stream patient according to practice procedures and appropriate precautions taken including:
    • separation in the waiting room, or waiting outside the practice (e.g., in the carpark) from other patients.
    • the use of appropriate PPE by clinical staff interacting with the patient.

The practice is entitled to make an appropriate charge for the extra work this may entail for both situations detailed above, but the charge must be reasonable (not punitive), and the patient must be notified of that charge when they initially present. It is important that the practice processes do not adversely affect  the equity of access to General Practice services.