Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has today called on the new Health Secretary to ensure that healthcare workers who may come into contact with covid-positive patients are issued with high grade FFP3 masks rather than standard issue surgical masks.
His call comes after research from Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust found wearing an FFP3 mask can provide up to 100% protection. By contrast, there is a far greater chance of staff wearing standard issue surgical masks catching the virus.
In October 2020, Mr Rennie asked the Scottish Government to review its guidance on what type of masks are issued to healthcare workers after being contacted by staff concerned that the current surgical masks do not afford adequate protection when caring for positive or suspected positive Covid patients. These calls were rejected by then Health Secretary Jeane Freeman.
Staff who are treating positive or suspected positive patients are currently issued with Fluid Resistant surgical masks (FRSM), rather than the higher quality FFP3 masks, which are reserved for “aerosol generating procedures”.
Mr Rennie said:
“It is now more than six months since I was first approached by medical staff concerned that the masks they were being issued with were not fit for purpose.
“At the time the Health Secretary rejected my pleas to even review the guidance. This research confirms that she was downright wrong.
“We have all had to learn fast with this virus, but too often opportunities to improve our response and help those on the ground passed the Scottish Government by.
“Keeping our NHS staff safe doesn’t just ensure there are enough people available to help patients effectively. It’s also the right thing to do to make sure they themselves are kept safe.
“I hope that the Health Secretary will apologise to the brave staff who have been exposed to unnecessary risk for so many months, and ensure that FFP3 masks are now the norm when caring for suspected or confirmed Covid patients.”