Face masks: we were not consulted, NHS trust chiefs complain

The NHS Providers deputy chief executive, Saffron Cordery, has said trusts received “little or no consultation” ahead of the government’s announcement on imminent changes to face covering regulations.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said on Friday that all hospital visitors and outpatients in England would need to wear face coverings and hospital staff must use surgical masks as of 15 June.

A health department spokeswoman added that while members of the public were “strongly urged” to attend hospital wearing a face covering, no one would be denied care and masks would be provided by the hospital if necessary.

But Cordery said in a statement that a lack of forewarning from the government had left NHS Trusts scrambling to find enough equipment to cater for hospital staff, patients and visitors.

“[The announcement] of compulsory mask wearing for all NHS staff working in any part of a hospital is clearly designed to help to ensure that both staff and patients are protected and feel safe,” she said.

“But as is the case for a number of announcements throughout the pandemic, this has come with little or no consultation with the NHS frontline and without a plan in place to ensure that all trusts will have access to adequate supplies of type one and two masks.”

Cordery added trusts were nervous about the imminent lifting of some patient visiting restrictions from 15 June. “We know that trusts want to do all they can to ensure that patients can have contact with their loved ones while in hospital, but there is understandably nervousness and concern about opening up visiting too quickly,” she said.

“Trusts need time to put in place processes and guidance to ensure that patients can receive visitors safely and while adhering to social distancing and infection control measures.

“Important decisions like these should not come as a surprise to those expected to deliver them.”

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