Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on the extended use of face masks and face coverings in hospitals, primary care, wider community care and adult care homes

Published: 9 Nov 2020
Last updated: 7 Jun 2021 - see all updates

Guidance on the extended use of face masks and face coverings by staff within acute hospitals, community hospitals, primary care and wider community care, together with advice for visitors to care homes and hospitals, including those attending for an appointment.

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Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on the extended use of face masks and face coverings in hospitals, primary care, wider community care and adult care homes
Current guidance - staff in hospitals

Current guidance - staff in hospitals

It is recommended that staff providing direct care to individuals in the following settings should wear a FRSM at all times throughout their shift, as per the NIPCM Scottish COVID-19 Addendum. This includes acute hospitals (including mental health, maternity, neonatal and paediatrics) and community hospitals.  “Extended” in this regard means that an FRSM will be worn throughout the shift, but must be removed and replaced as necessary (observing hand hygiene before the mask is removed and before putting another mask on), and as recommended during the shift, including e.g. if it becomes contaminated, damaged or moist.  A helpful poster, which contains key points and advice on how to wear a face mask, can be found here.

Type IIR FRSMs are provided for use by staff in Scotland as part of the extended use of face masks policy.  These exceed the WHO minimum standard and are the same masks used by staff when providing direct care.  Using the same masks across health and social care settings will help to avoid any confusion or potential errors in mask selection. Staff following this updated guidance should use PPE at the level stipulated, but not exceed it. At the present time, the national stockpile is supplying and delivering these masks via NHS National Services Scotland (NSS).

Health and care staff should use their professional judgement and undertake a risk assessment in instances where it is necessary to remove the FRSM for a short period, and ensure it is safe to do so - for example, when the person they are supporting / caring for is showing signs of distress, or to communicate with a person who lip-reads. Where face masks are not worn, carrying out 2 metre physical distancing is essential and consideration should be given to the space in which the communication can take place i.e. a well-ventilated room.

Staff are not required to wear an FRSM during mealtimes in staff restaurants but should do so when not seated at a table, such as when queueing, entering or leaving the canteen (in line with other hospitality venues). Again, carrying out 2 metre physical distancing is essential during these times, as is good hand hygiene and safely optimising ventilation. During breaks, and where possible, consideration should be given to facilitating the use of outdoor spaces, which provide a safer alternative than enclosed indoor spaces. Additionally, consideration should be made to the staggering of staff breaks.  

There will also be instances of staff who may suffer from breathing difficulties, or suffer from genuine discomfort or distress when wearing a FRSM. We expect staff to be fully supported and appropriate steps taken locally to implement the guidance in a way that has regard to staff well-being. A workforce risk assessment should be undertaken.


First published: 9 Nov 2020 Last updated: 7 Jun 2021 -