NHS Scotland Adopts Transparent Face Masks

Pavankumar Kamat

December 03, 2021

NHS Scotland has approved the use of new locally made transparent face masks in health and social care settings to help overcome communication barriers for staff and patients.

There is emerging evidence regarding the benefits of transparent masks. In a recent US study published in the journal  JAMA Network Open , participants, including members of the general public, healthcare workers, including healthcare workers with a hearing impairment, reported an enhanced ability to read emotion with the use of transparent masks. The masks were generally accepted and viewed positively by all three groups.

The study also reported that common characteristics of these masks, such as discomfort, fogging of the see-through panel, and reduced sound quality, could be barriers to widespread implementation.

Mary Morgan, Chief Executive for National Service Scotland, believes the transparent masks will aid healthcare working when communicating with patients.

"Patient care is of the utmost priority and clear communications is critical to delivering the best possible experience for patients," said Morgan. "This is a key step in improving communications with patients and staff as we continue through the pandemic."

Distribution of the masks to Health Boards began in November 2021, and they are expected to come into use from December 2021. Nearly 10% of masks from an initial order of 2.3 million have been already issued to Health Boards.

Cabinet Secretary for Health Humza Yousaf said: "Patients and staff have rightly been calling for an alternative to the usual surgical face masks in clinical settings, so I am pleased NHS Scotland is rolling out these new, innovative transparent masks."

The transparent masks were developed by a Scottish company Alpha Solway in collaboration with NHS Scotland. They comprise a clear, anti-fog, non-reflective front panel which allows recognition of lip movement, thereby making lip-reading easier for patients and staff with communication needs. They can be utilised in settings which otherwise make use of Type IIR surgical face masks.

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