COVID 19: BMA calls for review of masks for medical staff

LibDem leader Willie Rennie (above) says there is a real question as to whether FFP3 masks and eye protection, rather than fluid resistant surgical masks alone, should be used.

By Bill Heaney

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has today backed BMA calls for the Scottish Government to review mask guidance after the professional body for doctors and medical students raised concerns over the safety of staff.

His fresh call comes on the back of a briefing from BMA Scotland circulated to MSPs which notes that “there is a real question as to whether FFP3 masks and eye protection, rather than fluid resistant surgical masks alone, should be used in a wider range of situations. BMA Scotland will continue to ask Scottish Government to review this and to change recommendations and PPE provision where there is real doubt about the safety of patient facing staff.”

The BMA have also written to Public Health England and Health Protection Scotland about this issue.

On 30th November, Mr Rennie asked the Scottish Government to review its guidance on what type of masks are issued to healthcare workers after being contacted by staff concerned that the current surgical masks do not afford adequate protection when caring for positive or suspected positive Covid patients. These calls were rejected by Health Secretary Jeane Freeman.

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 said:  “As the pandemic has gone on we have learned more about how the virus spreads and with it developed a new awareness of the risk posed by aerosol transmission.

“In light of these developments and the calls from the BMA, the government needs to reviews its current protections for staff.

“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 Health Secretary has been insistent that a cough is not an aerosol generating procedure. This is not how frontline health stuff or the BMA 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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