The government is to deliver 250,000 speciality face masks to NHS and social care workers who support people with hearing loss.
Staff will be given the clear face masks to help them communicate with people with conditions, including hearing loss, autism and dementia, over the next few weeks.
Minister for Care Helen Whately, (pictured) 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.
“The introduction of clear face masks will help overcome some of the difficulties carers wearing PPE are facing communicating with people who rely on lip reading. If this proves a success I look forward to increasing the supply to make sure whenever a clear mask is needed, there is one available.”
The see-through masks, which are produced by US company, ClearMask, have an anti-fogging barrier to ensure a carer’s face and mouth is always visible to support better communication with patients.
Social care providers will have access to the masks through a new pilot system with Local Resilience Forums.
Roger Wicks, director of policy and campaigns at Action on Hearing Loss said: “We welcome the procurement of clear face masks which has the potential to improve the accessibility of health and social care services for those who rely on seeing facial expressions and lip-reading to communicate – including people who are deaf or have hearing loss.
“Since the outbreak of coronavirus, people have told us continually that they are worried about communicating in health and social care settings where face masks are now in constant use. We know that clear masks have the ability to reduce barriers for both patients and staff across the NHS and social care services.
“People need to understand the information and instructions that they are given by health and care professionals: ineffective communication and misunderstandings have the potential to harm the health and well-being of people with hearing loss.
“We hope that different services across the NHS and social care are able to access clear masks and effectively match them to patient need. It will also be important that these masks are complemented by effective communication tips and deaf awareness amongst staff to ensure that people with hearing loss get the support they need.”
For the latest statistics on PPE deliveries to health and social care services, visit https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/ppe-deliveries-statistics-england-weekly-reports
The PPE portal can be accessed here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/ppe-portal-how-to-order-emergency-personal-protective-equipment
For more communication tips for health and care workers, visit https://actiononhearingloss.org.uk/information-and-support/support-for-health-and-social-care-professionals/communication-tips-for-healthcare-professionals/