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.

Contents
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
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 below sets out when FRSMs should be worn in hospitals:

Table 1

Situation

FRSM

Exceptions

 

Direct care

ü should wear a FRSM at all times throughout their 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

ü should wear a FRSM at all times throughout their 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

ü should wear a FRSM at all times throughout their 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

ü 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 care (including adult social or community care and adult residential settings, adult care home settings and care at home)

It is recommended that staff providing direct care to individuals in primary care (GP practices, dentists, opticians and pharmacies) and wider community care (including adult social or community care and adult residential settings, adult care home settings and care at 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. A helpful poster, which contains key points and advice on how to wear a face mask, can be found here.

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.

Table 2 below sets out when FRSMs should be worn in primary care (GP practices, dentists, opticians and pharmacies) and wider community care (including adult social or community care and adult residential settings, adult care home settings and care at home):

Table 2

Situation

FRSM

Exceptions

 

Direct care

ü should wear a FRSM at all times throughout their 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 resident areas/ residents rooms

ü should wear a FRSM at all times throughout their 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/ non- resident areas

ü should wear a face covering at all times throughout their 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

ü 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 care settings. Face masks are provided at the entrance to hospitals for any individual who requires one.

Staff working in health and care 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: 7 Jun 2021 -