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Pilot of clear masks launched to aid lip reading across NHS and social care

The Department of Health and Social Care is delivering 250,000 clear face masks to NHS trusts and social care services across the whole of the UK as part of a pilot scheme.

General practice is not directly involved in the trial of the speciality masks to help communication for patients with hearing loss and other conditions but GPs could approach their Local Resilience Forums for allocations, a DHSC spokesperson told Pulse.

They added the masks would be distributed to other settings including primary care should the pilot prove successful.

It is hoped that the masks which have a clear panel with an anti-fogging barrier will help NHS staff and care workers communicate with people who rely on lip reading and facial expressions including those with autism and dementia, the government said.

The masks are being provided through a deal with US-based company ClearMask.

Minister for Care Helen Whately said: ‘The introduction of clear face masks will help overcome some of the difficulties carers wearing PPE are facing communicating with people who rely on lip reading. If this proves a success I look forward to increasing the supply to make sure whenever a clear mask is needed, there is one available.’

Roger Wicks, director of policy and campaigns at Action on Hearing Loss said: ‘Since the outbreak of coronavirus, people have told us continually that they are worried about communicating in health and social care settings where face masks are now in constant use.

‘We know that clear masks have the ability to reduce barriers for both patients and staff across the NHS and social care services.’

He added: ‘We hope that different services across the NHS and social care are able to access clear masks and effectively match them to patient need.’