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Clear masks deliver healthcare boost for learning disabled and hearing-impaired patients

Wednesday 9th September 2020

Frontline NHS and care workers will receive 250,000 clear masks to help them better communicate with patients who rely on lip reading and facial expressions. 

The masks will help people with hearing loss as well as people learning disabilities, autism or dementia and foreign language speakers and their interpreters. Doctors, nurses and care workers will use the masks to communicate better with communication-impaired patients and clients during the current COVID pandemic and beyond. 

The masks are see-through and have an anti-fogging barrier to ensure the nose and mouth are always visible.

NHS trusts and social care providers across the UK will receive the masks over coming weeks, in response to calls from disability organisations, including Contact, who told NHS England that compulsory mask wearing is affecting healthcare for some disabled people.

If the distribution proves successful, the Government plans to increase the supply to ensure everyone who needs a clear mask can get access to one. 

The first delivery was distributed to NHS trusts this week, with further deliveries over the next couple of weeks. Social care providers will have access to the masks through a new pilot system with Local Resilience Forums. 

Amanda Elliot, Contact's Strategic Health Lead, said provision of transparent masks would improve health care for specific groups of disabled young people:

"These masks will help to deliver better healthcare to young people who are deaf or have learning disabilities and/or autism.

"Compulsory use of masks has presented a significant barrier to some people fully understanding the health care they are getting which in turn can lead to misunderstandings and even harm.' 

"Since the start of the COVID pandemic Contact has worked with NHS England to highlight the specific needs of disabled children and young people.  We are delighted the government has responded to the request for clear masks."

Additional information

Read more advice about health services for disabled children, including top tips for making GP appointments

Learn about young people with learning disabilities' entitlement to an annual health check from age 14 onwards.