Scottish Care’s statement on face mask guidance in care homes

Scottish Care are aware of concerns surrounding the recently updated guidance on the extended use of face masks and face coverings in adult care homes. Amongst other requirements, the guidance states that ‘Residents in adult care homes should wear a Fluid Resistant (Type IIR) Surgical Face Mask (unless exempt) when they are in communal spaces.’. 

This guidance was first published in September 2020. Scottish Care made representation at that time for the guidance to be adjusted to support care home residents.

Scottish Care has long argued that a care home is not a clinical setting, but a home to all the residents there. Residents, especially those with dementia and other conditions, need to be supported in a manner that respects their human rights, treats them with dignity and enables them to see all areas of the care home as their home. The requirement to encourage someone to wear a mask or face covering does not respect individual choice or autonomy. In many instances, prolonged mask-wearing can also cause a considerable amount of distress as well as confusion for those with declining capacity.

Scottish Care and colleagues have met with the Chief Nursing Officer and other officials from the Scottish Government yesterday (9 June 2021). During this meeting, we expressed our dismay and disappointment in the distress caused to care homes, residents, staff, and families by the new guidance. It has been established that the position on the requirement of face coverings in communal areas has not changed in principle since last September and the Scottish Government has agreed to work with us to ensure that the wording is reflective and appropriate to reality.

We note that they have since put out a statement clarifying this, stating that:

“Masks are not required in a residents’ own living space or when they are physically distanced from others. If a resident is not able to wear a mask, they will not be required to wear one – this has always been the case in care home settings.”

“A mask should only be used where a resident can tolerate wearing a mask when receiving direct, close personal care where it is not possible to keep a 2-metre distance and will not impact on the provision of care, and when residents in communal areas cannot be physically distant from others.”

 We hope that we can continue to work together with clinical colleagues in the Scottish Government to ensure that any publication of guidance supports the needs of our care homes and their residents. We are all eager to work to a situation where we return to normal living in our care homes as a matter of urgency including the end of social distance requirements.

Scottish Care remains committed to working with providers and partner organisations to developing a ‘care normal’ that promotes and sustains quality of life for our care home residents.