The group is demanding the reintroduction of masks in all health and social care settings
Some staff still wear masks and now doctors want patients to do the same.
By Lucy Ashton
Doctors in Scotland have accused ministers of “playing Russian roulette” with staff and patients’ health as they demand face mask guidance is reintroduced in healthcare settings.
In May, official Scottish Government guidance on wearing face coverings in hospitals, dentists and GP surgeries was withdrawn after being in place since June 2020.
The decision was taken after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Covid-19 was no longer a global emergency.
Doctors from the British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland condemned the decision at the time.
Now, the Scottish Healthcare Workers Coalition has written to ministers to highlight the “very serious flaws” in changing the guidance.
Ministers have been told that healthcare workers are at significantly higher risk of contracting the virus, with the signatories being healthcare workers who have developed post-Covid chronic illnesses.
The group is demanding the reintroduction of masks in all health and social care settings and a commitment to improving ventilation and air filtration as a matter of urgency.
In the letter, the coalition states the updated guidance is not based on the science of coronavirus transmission and “represents a flawed and dangerous decision which will result in more infection in health and social care settings”.
Dr Shaun Peter Qureshi, of the Scottish Healthcare Workers Coalition, said: “At-risk patients have entirely legitimate concerns that they may endanger their health by visiting their GP or hospital.
“With at least 4% of NHS staff now living with chronic post-Covid complications, the Scottish Government must follow the evidence and improve protections from the airborne spread (of the virus) in healthcare settings, not reduce them.”
David Osborn, a chartered safety and health practitioner, said: “It is unclear that any health and safety risk assessment was undertaken by the Scottish Government before making their decision to abandon universal masking which is viewed by some patients as playing Russian roulette with their health.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The guidance on the extended use of face masks and face coverings in health and social care settings was withdrawn in May. This means that patients, service users, staff and visitors are no longer strongly recommended to wear face masks or coverings in these settings.
“This is a proportionate approach which recognises that Scotland continues to adapt to the Covid-19 pandemic and has entered a calmer phase of the pandemic.
“Any change to the extended use of face masks and face coverings guidance is in relation to the latest scientific evidence and is continually under review.
“The removal of this extended guidance does not stop or prevent staff, service users or visitors from wearing a mask.”