Clinical treatment outside hospital; GP
A Medical Practice in the area of Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board
Mr A complained that the Surgery had insisted he wear a face covering (mask) before he would be seen at the Surgery even though Mr A said he was exempt from mask wearing as he was autistic. He said this had caused him anxiety and distress. It had also resulted in him not seeing a GP or getting his medication.
In considering the case, the Ombudsman noted that autism is covered by the Equality Act 2010 and so Mr A would fall into the exemptions from mask wearing envisaged in Welsh Government guidance (issued during the COVID-19 pandemic). The Surgery’s response to Mr A’s formal complaint had said that exemptions did not apply in GP practices given their high-risk nature as a setting. Otherwise, the Surgery said that Mr A had been seen and had been issued with necessary medications.
The Ombudsman examined Mr A’s clinical records and found that he had been seen in person, more than once, during the period concerned, as well as undergoing online consultations. He had been issued with relevant prescriptions. However, whilst it was mandatory to wear masks in healthcare settings at the time covered by the complaint, Welsh Government guidance plainly said that exemptions could still apply. It appeared the Surgery’s practice had been restrictive in this respect. This had caused distress and so injustice to Mr A when attending the Surgery premsies. As an alternative to a full investigation of the complaint, the Surgery agreed to undertake the following within 1 month:
Apologise in writing to Mr A for the failure to acknowledge his exemption from wearing a face covering, and for the misinformation contained in the Surgery’s response to his complaint about exemptions in healthcare settings.
Issue a reminder to Surgery staff about the Welsh Government’s guidance on exemptions – including that autistic people and others whose conditions are not visible may still be exempt.