Covid's resurgence sparks NHS hospitals to bring back face masks

Return of the mask! Covid’s resurgence sparks NHS hospitals to bring back guidance urging patients to wear coverings – just WEEKS after rules were ditched

  • Mandatory coverings for English patients and visitors were dropped on June 10 
  • Most hospitals stopped asking people to wear masks in the majority of areas 
  • Four hospital trusts have now issued a messaging blitz urging people to mask-up 

Covid’s resurgence has prompted NHS hospitals to bring back face mask rules for patients — just weeks after they were officially ditched.

Health chiefs this month dropped all guidance that told patients to wear coverings inside hospitals as well as A&E units and GP surgeries in England.

But at least four trusts have now reinstated guidance that urges people to mask-up because of a spike in infections.

Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust claimed its update was to ‘reduce further spread of Covid and keep patients and staff safe’.

Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust, in Nottinghamshire, said it was ‘vital we take decisive action to protect our most vulnerable patients’.

Similar reinstatement messages were put out by Torbay and South Devon NHS Trust and North West Anglia NHS Trust.

The guidance is, however, no longer legally enforceable.

When the national NHS masking rules were dropped on June 10, local health bodies were given the power to draft their own policies.

Several trusts still demanded patients and visitors wore face coverings.

Left-leaning experts have already called for a return of masks and for Britons to only meet outside because of the country’s uptick in infections.

Covid infections have doubled in a fortnight across England — and more than 1,000 patients are now being admitted with the virus each day.

Face masks have been brought back in NHS hospitals because of a resurgence in Covid cases just weeks after the rules were ditched. Pictured: Kings Mill Hospital in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, which is run by Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust, which has switched its messaging

Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust also reinstated the old guidance. Pictured: Addenbrooke’s Hospital, run by Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

 Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, which looks after 15 hospitals in the region, issued new guidance on Monday. Pictured: Dawlish Hospital in Devon

Covid infections have nearly doubled in a fortnight in England, rising to about 1.4million in the latest week

Admissions have breached 1,000 for the first time in two months but the majority of patients are not primarily ill with Covid

The Captain Tom Foundation faces further investigation after the charities watchdog launched a probe into claims that a firm controlled by the late Second World War veteran’s daughter trademarked his name and reportedly made £800,000.

The Charity Commission first opened a case into the charity in March last year, a month after Tom Moore died with Covid aged 100, and began reviewing the set-up of the organisation. 

This has now escalated to an inquiry after the watchdog said it had become concerned that a failure to take into account intellectual property and trademark issues when the charity was set up ‘may have generated significant profit’ for Club Nook Ltd.

Club Nook Ltd was used to register names such as Captain Tom and Walk with Tom for commercial use. 

It owns a number of trademark-registered names for purposes including beer, spirits, greeting cards, lunch boxes and water bottles. 

As well as donations, the Captain Tom Foundation generates income through branded merchandise including T-shirts and gin.

The Times reported that Club Nook Ltd made £809,000 in its first year, and that after creditors were paid, it was left with just under £500,000. 

A Companies House filing shows that the firm was registered in April 2020, less than two weeks before the foundation was incorporated.

The resurgence has been fuelled by the spread of BA.4 and BA.5, which are thought to be more infectious but just as mild as the original Omicron strain.

The Government has said it will monitor the situation ‘very quickly’ but does not plan to reintroduce restrictions. 

Ministers and their key advisers have taken confidence from the fact only a fraction of Covid patients are primarily admitted because they are unwell due to the virus. 

Separate figures show just 20 Britons are dying from the virus each day now. 

Torbay and South Devon NHS Trust, which looks after 15 hospitals across the region, issued new guidance on Monday. 

A spokesperson for the trust said: ‘Due to the rise in Covid in our communities and in our hospitals, we are encouraging people visiting our hospitals and health care sites to wear a face mask if they are able to do so.

‘Thank you for your support.’

The trust previously posted a picture of its maternity staff with and without masks, celebrating ‘smiles are back’ on June 10 when the guidance was lifted.

After the public U-turn, people living in the area took to social media to ridicule the trust for changing its stance so quickly.

Joel Webs Tweeted: ‘I thought smiles were back? Are your staff now wearing masks?’

Chaela wrote: ‘That lasted long! We’re all saying I told you so! The question is how did we all see it coming and you didn’t?’

Stephen Clarke said: ‘Eejits. Encourage all to wear high quality masks and don’t make this mistake again.’

Other trusts faced similar backlash, although some insist the move demonstrates ‘decisive’ action in the face of spiralling infections.

Phil Bolton, chief nurse for Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust, which has three hospitals, said the move to ditch masks was always considered reversible if cases picked up again.

He added: ‘At the time we cautiously stepped-down the requirement to wear a mask we said we’d keep transmission rates under constant review and reintroduce measures if necessary.

‘As cases have risen, it’s vital we take decisive action to protect our most vulnerable patients, visitors and colleagues to ensure we can keep vital services running for all those that need them over the coming weeks.

‘We’d like to thank everyone for their continued support and ask everyone to wear a mask when asked to do so across our hospitals.’

Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust said: ‘With Covid cases rising in the local community and in our hospitals, we are reinstating the requirement to wear face masks in all clinical patient-facing areas with immediate effect. 

‘We are taking this step to reduce further spread of Covid and keep patients and staff safe. 

‘We will continue to keep our Covid Secure guidance under regular review.’ 

The North West Anglia NHS Trust said: ‘Due to a rise in Covid patient numbers in our hospitals we need to reinstate mask wearing in all clinical areas.’

NHS England wrote to all local health bodies on July 10 to set out new rules on mask wearing issued by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

Covid guidance was continuing to impact on ‘capacity and flow’, bosses said at the time. 

Patients admitted with Covid or suspected to have Covid should be provided with a face mask.

Staff should still wear masks when dealing with Covid patients. 

‘Universal masking should also be considered in settings where patients are at high risk of infection due to immunosuppression eg oncology/haematology,’ the advice also said.

But masks are not needed elsewhere unless someone has a ‘personal preference’. 

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