A group of healthcare workers is demanding face masks are reintroduced in GP surgeries and hospital settings to protect staff against long Covid.
The Scottish Healthcare Workers coalition, which includes GP representatives, is asking the Scottish Government to revert its decision to withdraw face mask guidance immediately, labelling it as ‘dangerous and flawed’.
Scotland withdrew face mask mandates in healthcare settings in May, with the advice having being in place since June 2020.
The coalition, whose members have been affected by long Covid, argued that Covid remains ‘a significant threat to health’ and that they are ‘deeply concerned’ about the ‘harmful effect’ this change in policy will have on staff and patients.
A letter to First Minister Humza Yousaf, sent yesterday, said: ‘We believe the withdrawal of masks in health and social care settings will adversely affect the health and safety of patients, service users and health and social care workers.
‘It has been clearly demonstrated that health and social care workers are among those most at risk of Covid.
‘Healthcare workers are on average three to four times more likely to contract SARS-CoV-2 than the general population and are seven times more likely to develop severe Covid compared to those in non-essential jobs.’
It also said that ‘robust mitigations’ are necessary to reduce the risk of Covid and that ‘there must be cleaner air in health and social care settings’ through ventilation and air filtration, as the majority of Covid infections ‘occur due to indoor exposure’.
‘However, current building standards, including in hospitals and other health and social care settings, promote bare-minimum ventilation that do not protect against infectious disease transmission,’ the letter added.
The coalition is demanding the Government ‘urgently provide’ every health and social care worker in Scotland with access to well-fitting protective equipment across all settings, but said that clean air thought ventilation or filtration ‘is required’ in addition to the protective equipment to protect staff and patients.
It added: ‘We are asking you to immediately re-introduce universal use of masks in all health and social care settings which should encompass all staff, as well as patients and service users.’
A Scottish Government spokesperson told Pulse: ‘The guidance on the extended use of face masks and face coverings in health and social care settings was withdrawn in May.
‘This means that patients, service users, staff and visitors are no longer strongly recommended to wear face masks or coverings in these settings.
‘This is a proportionate approach which recognises that Scotland continues to adapt to the Covid pandemic and has entered a calmer phase of the pandemic.
‘Any change to the extended use of face masks and face coverings guidance is in relation to the latest scientific evidence and is continually under review.
‘The removal of this extended guidance does not stop or prevent staff, service users or visitors from wearing a mask.’
Earlier this month, the BMA warned that almost one in five doctors with long Covid are unable to work, while nearly half have experienced some form of loss of earnings.
The doctors’ union has made a number of asks to the Government including financial support to doctors and healthcare staff suffering with post-acute Covid, as well as ‘greater workplace protection’.