Care homes in Scotland have welcomed new guidelines requiring staff to wear face masks throughout their shift, effective from 29 June, together with new guidance on the phased reintroduction of family visiting and communal activities for residents.

Scotland’s guideline on face masks follows World Health Organisation (WHO) guidance, issued on 5 June, about the "extended" use of medical face masks by care staff, and comes as guidance is also issued on the phased reintroduction of family visiting and communal activities for residents in Scotland.

The document, Coronavirus (COVID-19): Interim Guidance on the Extended Use of Face Masks in Hospitals and Care Homes, states that medical face masks are to be worn by staff "within residential healthcare settings like acute adult, including mental health, and community hospitals and care homes for the elderly”. This new measure is designed to reduce the risk of transmission from the per-son wearing the mask or face covering. Staff are advised to "use their professional judgment, and undertake a risk assessment, in instances where it is necessary to remove the medical face mask for a short period of time, and it is safe to do so", for example when the person they are caring for is showing signs of distress or to communicate with a person who lip reads. It also advises in such circumstances that "where medical face masks are not worn, carrying out physical distancing is essential".

WHO guidance recommends that a type I or II medical mask is used to reduce the onward transmission of Covid-19 between staff. NHS National Services Scotland (NSS) is delivering type IIR masks.

Currently, this guidance does not apply to domiciliary workers.

The guidance says face coverings must also be worn by visitors to all care homes, and can be of the same type already recommended by the Scottish Government for use on public transport. Care homes must supply visitors with a face mask, if required.

This advice follows the announcement by the Scottish Government that care home residents will be able to receive visitors outside from 3 July, provided their home meets strict criteria, with infection control measures remaining in place. Currently, only essential visits, including those involving end of life care are permitted.

A care home will only be able to permit visiting or relax arrangements for communal activities if they have been Covid-19 free throughout the pandemic or if all affected residents have fully recovered and no residents have had symptoms for 28 days.

Phased Reintroduction of Family Visiting and Communal Activities for Residents, is available at: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-adult-care-homes-visiting-guidance/.

Last reviewed 30 June 2020