Health unions demand mandatory face mask use in healthcare for foreseeable future

Health unions have warned that nurses will be at “increased risk of abuse” if the Government’s guidance is ambiguous.

James McKay
15 July 2021
Patient face mask in GP

Unions have written to the Prime Minister to turn words into action.

Health unions have written to the Prime Minister calling for continued protection for health and care staff when COVID-19 rules are loosened next week.

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A joint letter from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), British Medical Association, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, British Dental Association and College of Optometrists stresses the importance of continued protective measures in health and care settings.

It calls upon the public to continue wearing face masks, social distancing and washing hands regularly but also echos continued calls for staff to be given the appropriate level of PPE and ventilation in their workplaces.

Words into action.

The letter states: “The need to recognise health and care settings as unique environments for the care and safety of the most vulnerable is paramount. While you state that you would expect the public to continue wearing face coverings in healthcare settings, we ask that this is translated into action.

“We cannot accept knowingly allowing patients and staff to become infected by the virus and becoming ill in a setting that is meant to look after peoples’ health. We would be failing in our duty to patients by putting them at risk of avoidable harm.

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“As the rules change, this must be backed by clear government communications for the public, so that health and care staff are not caught in the middle and placed at increased risk of abuse.”

Staff are more vulnerable.

Jude Diggins, Interim Director of Nursing, Policy and Public Affairs at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “The recent increase in the number of COVID-19 cases shows that we have some way to go before being free from the pandemic. Using face masks, social distancing and handwashing must continue if we are to continue to protect the population.

“It is important to recognise that nursing staff are more vulnerable than the general public as they work closely with patients who may have contracted COVID-19.

“To keep them safe, they must be provided with and supported to use the highest level of protection through the use of FFP3 masks where necessary and in all environments.”

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