HEALTH MATTERS: Rennie requests review of mask guidance as hospital staff raise concerns 

By Lucy Ashton

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has today called on the Scottish Government to review its guidance on what type of masks are issued to healthcare workers after being contacted by staff. They believe the current surgical masks do not afford adequate protection when caring for positive or suspected positive Covid patients. 

The call also follows concerns that there have been a sharp rise in Covid infections likely to have been acquired in hospital. Public Health Scotland revealed there were 180 definite or probable “hospital onset” infections in the week ending 25 October, up from 98 the previous week.

Staff who are treating positive or suspected positive patients are currently issued with Fluid Resistant surgical masks (FRSM), rather than the higher quality FFP3 masks, which are reserved for “aerosol generating procedures”. 

Mr Rennie has been approached by frontline medical staff who disagree with the current guidance that states that a patients coughing is not considered an aerosol generating procedure. 

Mr Rennie said:  “I am very concerned about the spread of the virus in hospitals as reported by Public Health Scotland. So it is important the government reviews its current protections for staff.

Scottish Government’s advice is that masks do not protect the wearer from the virus.

“If you develop a cough now, you are expected to self-isolate to stop the spread but healthcare staff have no option but to treat those very same people when they are in hospital. The Scottish Government’s own advice is that surgical masks do not protect the wearer from the virus so the government should look again at how it protects NHS staff who are expected to care for Covid or suspected Covid patients.

 “The Health Secretary has been insistent that a cough is not an aerosol generating procedure. This is not how frontline health stuff see it. Many healthcare staff are questioning why FFP3 masks are not yet the norm in all wards caring for suspected or confirmed Covid patients and not just the minority caring for Covid patients in I.C.U units being ventilated. 

“Keeping our NHS staff safe is not just the right thing to do for their own sake but vital to ensuring that we have enough staff available to deal with patients effectively. The Scottish Government should undertake a review of the current guidance and meet with staff representatives to listen to their concerns.” 

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