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Clear face masks in NHS and Social Care settings

Published Date: 26 Apr 2022

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, we have been campaigning to have clear face masks widely available in the NHS. Many deaf children rely on lip-reading and facial expressions for clear communication, something that’s not possible when opaque face masks are being worn. Clear face masks can remove this communication barrier, without the need for doctors, or other health professionals, to remove their masks.

In September 2020, the Department for Health and Social Care (in England) purchased 250,000 clear face masks from the USA for a pilot to see how useful they were for improving communication with hearing loss. This was a step in the right direction, but more was needed. 

NHS England and NHS Improvement then set up a UK wide working group for the development of transparent PPE, which the National Deaf Children’s Society has been supporting. The group has produced a new technical specification which gives testing, design and performance requirements for single-use transparent face masks which provide comparable protection to that of a Type IIR mask. The technical specification has been published here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/technical-specifications-for-personal-protective-equipment-ppe/transparent-face-mask-technical-specification

Three clear face masks have now completed this process and are available for use in healthcare settings as an equivalent to the Type IIR mask. These masks are not yet on the NHS supply chain, but they are available for purchase and use by NHS Trusts immediately.

These face masks will be a game-changer deaf children – helping them to understand their doctors or other health professionals more easily. We believe that the use of a clear face mask could be considered a reasonable adjustment under the Equality Act 2010. And we are encouraging all NHS Trusts to purchase a supply of these masks so that they are available for use with deaf children.

The approved clear face masks are available to purchase from:

Attending appointments

We’d like as many NHS Trusts as possible to purchase clear face masks to use with deaf children and young people.

Will you be attending an audiology, or other healthcare appointment with your deaf child soon? You could get in touch with the service beforehand and ask them if they’ll have clear face masks available for the appointment. Or you could ask your audiologist or doctor about it at the appointment.

The Department for Health and Social Care are collecting feedback on the new clear face masks. If you'd like to share anything, please use their online form – https://form.jotform.com/220301536099350

We'd also be interested to hear what you think about the masks. If there's anything you'd like to tell us, please email us at [email protected] If you have any other questions about clear face masks, or about encouraging your audiology or health service to start using these, please just email us as well. 

Other resources

Our blog for families has more information about coronavirus. And our education blog sets out the latest rules and advice on face coverings in education.