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 This guidance was withdrawn on 16 May 2023.
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Guidance for staff on how to support visitors (including children aged 5 and over)
This guidance was withdrawn on 16 May 2023.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.
The hospital or primary care service should provide visitors with a face mask where required.
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 for a prolonged period of time, are strongly recommended to wear face masks, (or face covering if a face mask cannot be tolerated, unless they have an existing medical condition which prevents the wearing of a face covering).
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 face masks.
Politely encourage all individuals to use a face covering, or offer them a face mask to wear, and where necessary, highlight the benefits of wearing a face covering. The hospital, primary care service should provide visitors with a face mask where required.
Where visitors decline to wear face coverings or have a medical exemption that makes wearing one difficult, clinicians should apply judgement and consider if other IPC measures, such as hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, and ventilation are sufficient depending on the patient/resident/client’s condition and the care pathway.
The vast majority of people can wear a face covering and if they do not have an existing medical condition which prevents them from wearing one, then are strongly recommended to do so. The support of employers and staff in encouraging the use of face coverings is vital to their success as a healthcare intervention.
Waste disposal of FRSMs
Hands must be washed or decontaminated with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub, before and after touching/removing a face mask. FRSMs must be disposed of in line with The National Infection Prevention and Control Manual (NIPCM).
Communications of face covering requirements to patients by health boards
Health boards can include generic information on the use of face coverings in appointment letters and other communications. Other communication methods could include using social media to promote this requirement and clear signage at entry points. A poster is available on the Public Health Scotland website.
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