New guidance on masks in care settings


Clear Masks

Women wearing clear masks to communicate

New Scottish Government regulations on the extended use of face masks in wider community care and adult care homes came into force on Wednesday 30 September 2020. The guidance states all providers of primary and community care must wear Type IIR fluid resistant masks in the workplace, which are typically opaque.

At Deaf Action, we’re concerned about the impact this will have on our *deaf clients, particularly those who use our social care and support services. Opaque masks can create barriers to everyday conversation for *deaf individuals reliant on lipreading.

The real impact on our community

We spoke to Alison Richards, our Support Services Manager based in Slateford Green.

“At the beginning of the pandemic our support staff wore opaque masks, but our clients were frightened as the masks presented a real communication barrier. We switched to clear masks and face shields which clients were much happier with, however with the new regulations in place, we feel like we’re back at square one. Our clients are angry, upset and frightened.

They need to be able to communicate with health professionals, but if a carer, doctor or nurse is wearing an opaque mask, they don’t know what they’re saying or even what they’re feeling, as they can’t pick up on facial cues.”

The new rules encourage healthcare staff to conduct a risk assessment when masks may need to be removed to aid lipreading, but protection shouldn’t mean exclusion. We must ensure these crucial services are accessible for deaf people, which can be done by supplying clear masks to care providers and their clients, particularly hearing people in care roles, preventing unnecessary barriers for deaf people.

What’s the solution?

Clear masks are available, with several awaiting accreditation. We’re calling on the Scottish Government to use its spending power to speed up this process, to make clear masks available to all, as soon as possible.