Information on the use of transparent face masks during COVID-19, including details on the process of testing and procurement and how RCSLT members can access approved masks.
Stage 1: Identifying clinically safe transparent masks
The UK government have published safety standards which transparent face masks must meet before they can be procured nationally or locally (see guidance on Class I medical devices and current guidance on transparent face masks for information).
- Manufacturers are currently seeking to prove that they meet these standards through a certification process.
- An NHS England will examine certificates and approve masks for potential procurement locally and across the UK.
- An NHS Scotland group will also examine certificates and approve masks for potential procurement locally and across the UK.
RCSLT members can help speed up procurement of clinically safe transparent masks at local and national levels. The flow diagram, approved by NHS England, explains how.
The RCSLT will publish an up-to-date list of masks which have passed the necessary safety standards. The list of approved masks will be available here when the RCSLT is informed that they have met the relevant UK standards and are being procured locally.
Stage 2: User testing
After masks have passed the necessary safety standards they may be user tested before mass procurement. NHS England intend to carry out user testing of approved masks.
Ahead of this, and to feed into national procurement, if members have tried out any transparent face masks which have passed the necessary safety standards, we would welcome user feedback on these masks. You can leave your feedback via our online survey.
The RCSLT will collate and pass on to NHS England to inform national procurement going forwards.
Stage 3: Guidance
NHS England will also produce UK wide guidance on where and when transparent masks should be used, and who should use them.
An NHS Scotland group also intends to issue guidance.
The RCSLT is working to influence this guidance to meet the needs of all people with communication needs and those who provide services to them.
Stage 4: Access to supply
In England, once stages 1-3 are complete, NHS England will procure supplies nationally. In England, national procurement will also be supplemented by local procurement.
Wales will receive a share of the masks procured by NHS England.
In Scotland, once stages 1 and 3 have been completed, transparent masks are expected to be supplied to local health boards.
In Northern Ireland, information on provision has not yet been made available to the RCSLT.
At the time of writing (Wednesday 30 June 2021), it remains unclear to the RCSLT when transparent masks are likely to become available to speech and language therapy services.
Access to transparent masks on the ground will be determined by national guidance on who should get transparent masks as a priority. The guidance is being developed at a UK level.