ClearMask Update – Scottish Government

Scottish Government considers the use of clear facemasks. They make communication easier but do they provide a sufficient level of protection?

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Below is a statement from the Scottish Government on the use of ClearMasks, face coverings and surgical masks.

“NHS National Services Scotland have ordered a small number of the ClearMask for clinical evaluation and will make a decision about whether the mask can be used, and if so, in what circumstances. As it stands currently, NSS do not consider the ClearMask to be an appropriate alternative to a type IIR (surgical face masks) mask. This means they could not be used in clinical settings and would be closer to what they consider a transparent face covering than a transparent face mask. 

Furthermore, the Royal College for Speech and Language Therapists have released a statement saying they do not consider the ClearMask fit for purpose because it moves with exaggerated mouth movements

However, Scotland Excel, who is supporting local authorities in acquiring PPE, have made local authorities aware that transparent face coverings are available, with no supply issues and I am aware that local authorities are buying them and they are being used in some settings i.e. education. The Scottish Government is currently considering how we can support any messaging around the wider use of transparent masks in a range of settings and awareness of their availability. Please bear in mind though that transparent masks are only one approach in aiding communication and it is important to ensure that other options, that are permissible within the relevant guidance, are also considered.

Regarding clinically suitable transparent face masks, for use in the NHS and social care in Scotland, as opposed to face coverings, the Scottish Government has been working to explore options for transparent masks and face coverings. Scottish Enterprise recently awarded £50,000 of funding from their Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund (PERF) to an Edinburgh-based company to expand its production of face coverings to include coverings with transparent panes, which facilitate lip-reading.  This company is being supported by the National Manufacturing Institute for Scotland (NMIS) to upgrade these face coverings to type IIR masks which, if they were to pass testing, would be suitable for use in clinical settings.

It is worth also noting that in healthcare and wider community care settings current guidance is that Fluid Resistant (Type (IIR)) Surgical Masks must be worn by all health and social care staff where direct care is being provided. However, the guidance also states that where it is necessary to communicate with a person who lip-reads or a person showing signs of distress, face masks may be removed for a short period where it is safe to do so. 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.  In addition, the guidance also makes clear that individuals receiving care are not required to wear a face mask/covering in their own home however, they may choose to and this should be respected.”

As a charity for the hard of hearing, we are concerned that the standard clinical mask makes it extremely difficult for many of those with a hearing loss to communicate, as standard masks muffle sound and prevent lip reading. We hope clear fronted masks will be adopted for use in NHS and Social Care setting.

We would love to know your experiences or feedback on this issue and can assure you of anonymity should you wish. Please Contact us with your views

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