Publication - Advice and guidance

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

Published: 9 Nov 2020
Last updated: 8 Oct 2021 - see all updates

Guidance for staff within acute hospitals, community hospitals, primary care and wider community care, together with advice for visitors, including those attending for an appointment.

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

Guidance for staff on how to support visitors (including children aged 5 and over)

Any individual visiting or attending an acute adult hospital (including mental health, maternity, neonatal and paediatrics), community hospitals, primary care premises (GP practices, dentists, opticians and pharmacies), should wear a face covering of the same kind that the Scottish Government has made mandatory to be worn on most indoor public places and indoor communal spaces, including retail and public transport.

Where visitors decline to wear face coverings, clinicians/ community care managers should apply judgement and consider if other IPC measures, such as hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, ventilation and physical distancing are sufficient depending on the patient / resident / client’s condition and the care pathway.

Steps should be taken to communicate in an accessible way to visitors the need to wear a face covering, unless exempt. The hospital or primary care service should provide visitors with a face mask where required.

The vast majority of people can wear a face covering and if they are not exempt from doing so then they are legally obliged to do so in the mandated spaces. Police Scotland, have enforcement powers to attend an incident and issued a Fixed Penalty Notice. However the support of employers and staff in encouraging the use of face coverings is vital to their success as a public health intervention.

GP Practices have the right to remove patients from their list if there is a disagreement between the practice and patient in the application of COVID-19 controls, and an irretrievable breakdown of the relationship.

In order to protect patients and staff in high risk settings, long stay and/or overnight visitors, such as birthing partners; parents of children who are in long stay wards; or appropriate adults or families of patients who have learning disabilities, and who are required to stay in hospital with the patient for a prolonged period of time, will be asked to wear FRSMs, (or face covering if a FRSM cannot be tolerated, unless they fall under one of the exemptions specified in the regulations). This will provide clarity for any long stay and/or overnight visitors who are required to stay in hospital with patient and will align with the guidance on patient and staff wearing of FRSMs. 

Supply of face masks

We have taken account of the need to make sure there is sufficient supply of FRSMs before introducing new measures. In anticipation of the change, NSS is increasing FRSM supplies.


First published: 9 Nov 2020 Last updated: 8 Oct 2021 -