Coronavirus (COVID-19): extended use of face masks and face coverings in hospitals, primary care and wider community healthcare

Guidance for staff within acute hospitals, community hospitals, primary care and wider community healthcare, together with advice for visitors, including those attending for an appointment. This guidance was withdrawn on 16 May 2023.

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This guidance was withdrawn on 16 May 2023.

From this date, healthcare settings should follow the infection prevention and control guidance within NHSScotland National infection prevention and control manual.

This guidance outlines the continuation of the extended use of Fluid Resistant (Type IIR) Surgical Masks (FRSM) by healthcare staff, patients and visitors in:

  • primary care (GP practices, dentists, opticians and pharmacies)
  • wider community healthcare (includes hospice settings and prison and detention settings)
  • acute hospitals (mental health, maternity, neonatal and paediatrics)
  • community hospitals

When this guidance refers to face masks, this means Fluid Resistant Surgical Face masks (Type IIR) (FRSM) that are used in healthcare settings in Scotland to protect the wearers against hazards and risks.

It is important to note the difference between face coverings and face masks. Face coverings are made of cloth or other textiles that cover the mouth and nose. Face coverings are largely intended to protect others, not the wearer, against the spread of infection because they cover the nose and mouth which are the main confirmed sources of transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19.

This guidance remains in place is due to above settings hosting more highly clinically vulnerable individuals, for whom COVID-19 infection still poses a greater risk.

This guidance was reworded to reflect the shift in wider public and community settings mitigations changing from legislation to guidance. The extended use of face masks and face coverings in hospitals, primary care and wider community healthcare guidance now strongly recommends, rather than stating one should/must, as was in previous iterations of the guidance.

This guidance is regularly reviewed in light of further evidence and feedback. Please ensure you are using the latest version of this guidance. 

The guidance for social care staff, adult care home residents, visitors and users of social care, has been updated. The recommendation that face masks are worn at all times is being removed for service users and visitors in social care settings and staff in these settings.

Healthcare workers who work with individuals within the social care setting are required to follow the guidance for social care settings

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