NHS and care workers will be given clear face masks to help them communicate with people with conditions such as hearing loss, autism and dementia, the Government has announced.
The Department of Health and Social Care has done a deal with a US company to deliver 250,000 masks to NHS trusts and social care providers across the UK over the next few weeks.
Healthcare workers will be able to use the masks with people who need to lip-read or rely on facial expressions to communicate, during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond.
They have an ‘anti-fogging barrier’ to ensure the face and mouth are always visible to help healthcare staff communicate better with their patients.
Minister for care Helen Whately said the clear face masks ‘will help overcome some of the difficulties carers wearing PPE are facing communicating with people who rely on lip-reading’.
She continued: ‘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 deal for the masks has been made with US-based company ClearMask. The first delivery has already been distributed to NHS trusts, with further deliveries over the next couple of weeks and future orders based on demand.
Social care providers will also have access to the masks through a new pilot system with local resilience forums.
Richard Wicks, director of policy and campaigns at Action for Hearing Loss, said that people are worried about communicating in health and social care settings now face masks have been in constant use.
He continued: ‘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 among staff to ensure that people with hearing loss get the support they need.’
He added: ‘Ineffective communication and misunderstandings have the potential to harm the health and wellbeing of people with hearing loss.’
The Government said it has delivered over 3 billion pieces of personal protective equipment to the frontline since April.
Last year, Nursing in Practice interviewed Helen Cherry, one of Britain’s first deaf nurses who told us that inclusive processes are not always followed by employers.