New Public Health Guidance for Health Care settings effective from 19th April 2023
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has issued new public health guidance. The universal use of facemasks in hospitals and other healthcare settings, to curb the spread of COVID-19, will no longer apply with effect from 19th April
Please note guidance now relates to a change of terminology from COVID-19 to COVID-19/respiratory viral infection
The HPSC states "outside of periods of high levels of community transmission" it will be appropriate to move away from universal use of masks for healthcare workers, patients and visitors in healthcare settings.
The ISCP advises that while routine wearing of masks no longer applies in private and community sectors, members should continue to risk assess their situation and choose whether or not to wear a mask. As with physiotherapists, a patient’s preference to continue to wear a mask should be respected.
Hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette should continue - now considered standard health care precautions.
Please see below for HPSC advice on mask use followed by further guidance in certain settings
Regarding mask use: the guidelines state
- Surgical or respirator masks should continue to be worn by healthcare workers in all settings where they are caring for patients with suspected or confirmed COVID19.
- Surgical or respirator masks should also be worn in settings where the infection prevention and control team advice indicates that there is a high risk that patients with unsuspected COVID-19 or respiratory viral infections are likely to be present.
- Healthcare workers in low-risk settings, when caring for those who do not have suspected or confirmed COVID-19 or respiratory viral infection, no longer need to wear a face mask for all interactions with patients .
- Recognising that health care workers’ preferences are an important consideration, surgical and respirator masks should continue to be available to healthcare workers in all settings
- Carer staff who live and work with residents in health and social care settings, when caring for those who do not have suspected or confirmed COVID-19 or respiratory viral infection, no longer need to wear a face mask for all interactions .
- Health Care Workers in non-clinical settings where patients are not cared for may revert to general public health guidance and may choose to wear a surgical mask, particularly in busy public areas of healthcare facilities.
Acute hospitals settings, including community hospitals, acute mental health services and facilities providing inpatient acute rehabilitation services.
The use of masks will still be recommended in certain circumstances. The HPSC says healthcare workers should use a surgical mask or respirator mask "at a minimum, for interaction with patients with respiratory viral symptoms".
For longer periods of care, caring within a bedspace or while performing higher risk procedures, a respirator mask and eye protection are recommended for healthcare workers.
The update also recommends that masks should be offered to patients in open or multi-bed wards who are exposed to other symptomatic patients.
Residential Care Facilities
It also applies to residential care facilities and to specialist in-patient palliative care services that have assessed the service they deliver as very similar to that provided in an acute hospital setting. See the link below