Around 250,000 clear face masks are set to be delivered to frontline NHS and social care workers to allow for better care to be provided to those who use lip-reading and facial expressions to communicate, whilst still ensuring staff and patients remain safe during coronavirus.
The clear face masks will allow for improved communication with people with certain conditions like hearing loss, autism and dementia.
Designed with an anti-fogging barrier to ensure the face and mouth are always visible, the see-through masks will help doctors, nurses and carers get important messages across to all patients clearly.
An estimated 12 million people in the UK are thought to have hearing loss, while those who rely on facial expressions to support communication – such as people with learning disabilities, autism or dementia, or foreign language speakers and their interpreters – will also see benefit from the government deal.
Minister for Care Helen Whately said: “Everyone using our remarkable health and care system deserves the best care possible and communication is a vital part of that.
“This pandemic has posed numerous challenges to the sector, so we are always on the hunt for simple solutions to support those giving and receiving care.”
Struck by the Department of Health and Social Care, the deal will see the 250,000-mask order – being supplied by a US-based company – begin to be delivered to NHS trusts and social care providers across the UK in the next few weeks. A first delivery has already been distributed to NHS trusts.
The deal to introduce clear masks has been introduced to apply to the whole of the UK, with the government currently working with the devolved administrations on allocations of the masks beyond England.
Social care providers will also have access to the masks through a new pilot system with Local Resilience Forums.
Professor Andrew Goddard, Royal College of Physicians (RCP) President, added: “The necessary use of face masks to protect staff and patients has made communication difficult. It’s particularly true for clinicians and patients who are deaf or have a hearing loss and rely on being able to read lips.
“Clear communication is always important, but particularly in healthcare. So, we’re pleased these masks are going to be available very soon.
“Of course, lip-reading doesn’t work for everyone, nor is it everyone’s first choice. It’s important that all NHS employers and services find out what someone’s communication needs are and meet them, in line with the Accessible Information Standard.”