Diverging advice on face masks in ASC and the NHS/current advice on face masks in ASC
DHSC has issued the following statement on the current divergence between NHS and Social care guidance on masks:
“Following a number of members raising concerns about differences in face mask guidance for the NHS and adult social care, we have consulted with UKHSA colleagues regarding the current guidance.
NHS England sent out a letter to NHS trusts, ICSs and regions on 1st June 2022 advising that staff, visitors and patients should no longer be advised to wear face masks at all times, but that there should be a move to a more risk assessment based approach. Since this letter was sent, NHS regions, ICSs and trusts have taken varying approaches based upon local prevalence and risk assessments.
There are significant differences between the adult social care and NHS environments including factors like ventilation, the type and length of care being carried out, the level of vulnerability to COVID-19 among service users, and the communal nature of living in some care settings. PPE in adult social care and NHS hospitals has varied at various points in the pandemic in response to this.
The guidance in adult social care continues to recommend that surgical face masks are worn by staff, visitors and any visiting professionals while inside the care setting to provide source control. Further PPE is also recommended for certain tasks such as personal care with details on what PPE is recommended for different scenarios available in the guidance.
If there are situations where the use of face masks is particularly challenging for a recipient of care, for example someone who lip reads or who finds it particularly distressing not to see someone’s face, it may be appropriate to risk assess their use. Following this risk assessment it may be determined that there are certain situations where face masks are not used with that client. In this case the guidance recommends that providers consider other mitigations such as increased ventilation and social distancing. The use of transparent face masks should also be considered.
We are aware there have been some concerns around visiting professionals following the divergence of guidance for the NHS and adult social care. While in a care setting, visiting professionals should abide by the same recommendations that all visitors to adult social care settings should follow. This means visiting professionals should be advised to wear masks at all times and additional PPE if engaging in personal care or visiting someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. NHS visiting health professionals should also be following the NHS asymptomatic testing regime and be willing to share evidence of a negative lateral flow test from within the last 72 hours as and when requested. Adult social care providers should assure themselves on this point, and if NHS staff are not following these policies providers may wish to contact their ICS for advice.”