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
New additional guidance - hospital staff

New additional guidance - hospital staff

In addition, all staff in non-clinical areas of hospitals, are now recommended to wear FRSMs, at all times, whilst at work, except in a limited number of circumstances, such as: when working alone, or in a closed office in a non-clinical area where all other control measures are in place, i.e. good ventilation; physical distancing, with staff 2 metres apart; easy access to hand washing and/or hand sanitising facilities; and regular cleaning of the area.

Staff who work solely in non-clinical buildings- such as NHS Board headquarters or other standalone offices – and who do not enter buildings where patient care is provided, would not be expected to wear FRSMs, but instead may wear their own face covering.  Staff members who work in non-clinical buildings but as part of their job role will enter buildings where clinical care is provided, would be expected to change to a FRSM if they do enter a building where care is provided.

Table 1

The table below sets out when FRSMs should be worn in hospitals:

Situation

FRSM

Exceptions

Direct care

You should wear a FRSM at all times throughout shift

After a risk assessment when the person they are supporting / caring for is showing signs of distress, or to communicate with a person who lip-reads. Wherever possible, maintain 2 metre distancing if FRSM removed.

Clinical areas

You should wear a FRSM at all times throughout shift

After a risk assessment when the person they are supporting / caring for is showing signs of distress, or to communicate with a person who lip-reads. Wherever possible, maintain 2 metre distancing if FRSM removed.

Non-clinical areas

You should wear a FRSM at all times throughout shift

When working alone in an office or when seated in a well-ventilated office more than 2m from the nearest colleague and after appropriate hand hygiene

Break times

You should wear a FRSM at all times when not seated and eating

When seated more than 2m from the nearest colleague and after appropriate hand hygiene

 

Current guidance - primary care (GP practices, dentists, opticians and pharmacies) and wider community health care settings (excluding care homes)

It is recommended that staff providing direct care to individuals in primary care (GP practices, dentists, opticians and pharmacies) and wider community health care settings (including health professionals visiting an individual within their own home) should wear a FRSM at all times throughout their shift.  “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.  See a helpful poster, which contains key points and advice on how to wear a face mask.

Health and community health 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 restaurants (but should maintain 2 metre physical distancing when seated) 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). Carrying out 1 metre or more 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.

Table 2 below sets out when FRSMs should be worn in primary care (GP practices, dentists, opticians and pharmacies) and wider community healthcare settings (including health professionals visiting individuals within their own homes) :

Table 2

Situation

FRSM

Exceptions

Direct care

You should wear a FRSM at all times throughout shift

After a risk assessment when the person they are supporting / caring for is showing signs of distress, or to communicate with a person who lip-reads. Wherever possible, maintain 2 metre distancing if FRSM removed.

Clinical areas/ communal areas in hospital and primary settings/ communal and resident areas in healthcare settings (excluding care homes) homes of individuals in receipt of  healthcare within their own home

You should wear a FRSM at all times throughout shift

After a risk assessment when the person they are supporting / caring for is showing signs of distress, or to communicate with a person who lip-reads. Wherever possible, maintain 2 metre distancing if FRSM removed.

Non-clinical areas/ community non- resident areas (excluding care homes)

You should wear a face covering at all times throughout shift

When working alone in an office or when seated in a well-ventilated office more than 2m from the nearest colleague and after appropriate hand hygiene

Break times

You should wear a FRSM/face covering at all times when not seated and eating

When seated more than 2m from the nearest colleague and after appropriate hand hygiene

Guidance for staff on how to support individuals (including children aged 5 and over) receiving care

All outpatients must wear a face covering upon entering health and community healthcare settings. Face masks are provided at the entrance to hospitals for any individual who requires one.

Staff working in health and community healthcare settings should be familiar with the face covering exemptions contained within guidance and regulations and ensure that anyone who is not required to wear one is not forced to do so or refused treatment – this includes women in labour and children aged under 5. Clinical teams may wish to include a pre- admission/pre- appointment triage question regarding the individual’s ability to wear a face covering before they attend for their appointment.


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