Health and social care staff in Scotland, including nurses, can now access FFP3 masks based on risk assessment and personal preferences.
The Scottish government has issued new guidance to NHS boards and registered care home providers outlining the process line managers and staff should follow when requesting access to FFP3 (respirator) masks in place of Type IIR (surgical masks).
The updated guidance means staff in Scotland can request a risk assessment from their line manager if they feel they need to have access to an FFP3 mask to ensure their personal safety.
FFP3 masks will continue to be accessible to staff undertaking an aerosol generating procedure (AGP) in a respiratory pathway and in a non-respiratory pathway where a member of staff has concerns about potential Covid-19 exposure, as before.
In a statement, Colin Poolman, director of RCN Scotland, said it was ‘long overdue’ and meant healthcare workers should be able to request higher levels of protection if they feel they need it.
Mr Poolman highlighted current high levels of transmission meant that nursing staff have seen ‘no let-up’ in pressures on the NHS and social care services, adding it is ‘absolutely right that we do everything we can to help protect staff’.
He said: ‘The RCN will continue to press for all health and care workers to be provided with FFP3 masks for contact with people who are known to be or potentially infected with Covid-19. We also remain concerned that suitable risk assessments are not being undertaken or not being actively shared by employers, so this must change in light of the updated guidance.’
The RCN has developed a Covid-19 risk assessment toolkit to support healthcare professionals consider and manage risks associated with the transmission of Covid-19, and aid local decision making on the level of personal protective equipment required.
Current infection prevention and control (IPC) UK Government guidance recommends FFP3 masks when caring for patients with suspected and confirmed seasonal respiratory viruses including Covid-19 when carrying out AGPs.
The guidance is likely to continue recommending universal masking in health and care settings by all staff, patients and visitors until at least May 2022.