News

Transparent face masks introduced to NHS Scotland

Published: 01 Dec 2021 12:02

Help for people with communication needs.

New transparent face masks, made in Scotland, have been approved for use in health and social care settings.

The new transparent masks, which feature a clear front panel to enable lip reading,  will make communication easier and help reduce the challenges the pandemic has created for those with communication needs.

NHS National Services Scotland began distributing the masks to Health Boards in November, and they will be in use from early December onwards.

The product has been designed and made by Scottish PPE supplier, Alpha Solway, based in Dumfries and Galloway, and is the result of close collaboration with NHS National Services Scotland.

Cabinet Secretary for Health, Humza Yousaf said:

“Although face masks are essential to reduce the spread of coronavirus, it can cause difficulties for people who rely on lip reading, or have other communication needs. 

“Patients and staff have rightly been calling for an alternative to the usual surgical face masks in clinical settings, so I am pleased NHS Scotland is rolling out these new, innovative transparent masks.

“These masks mean staff and patients can communicate clearly while staying safe.

“It is also great news that the masks are being made right here in Scotland. Businesses across Scotland worked hard to set up a new Scottish PPE supply chain at the start of the pandemic.

“This was an important part of our response to the coronavirus and this new and innovative product illustrates the long term benefits a domestic PPE supply chain can bring.”

Mary Morgan, Chief Executive for National Service Scotland said:

“Patient care is of the utmost priority and clear communications is critical to delivering the best possible experience for patients. Our procurement team have been working hard to distribute transparent masks to health boards across Scotland in time for December. This is a key step in improving communications with patients and staff as we continue through the pandemic.”

Background

NHS Scotland engaged with several Scottish-based companies to produce a solution to the challenges faced by those with communications needs due to increased use of surgical masks in clinical settings. As part of this, NHS Scotland worked with Alpha Solway, a Dumfriesshire-based company, to develop a transparent face mask.

The mask has been developed in accordance with the transparent face mask specification originally published on 1 April 2021. It features a clear anti-fog front panel, which has been positioned to prevent reflection and make lip reading easier and can be used where a Type IIR surgical face mask should be worn.

NHS National Services Scotland has placed an initial order for 2.3 million masks, and has already issued about 10% of these to Health Boards for use. Health Boards have been asked to prioritise using the masks with those patients and staff who have hearing issues or other communication needs.