Frequently asked questions about the use of masks in care homes

It is tough to keep up with the rapidly changing guidelines. Our care home expert Issac Theophilos answers some of the frequently asked questions below.

Should all the staff have to wear masks all the time even if no one has Covid in the care home? 

  • Yes, all staff should wear masks all the time due to the sustained transmission within the community. The purpose is to prevent asymptomatic staff from spreading the infection to the elderly residents. 

What type of masks should staff wear in care homes?

  • Staff should wear Type IIR surgical masks in normal circumstances. The guidance says, you can also wear non-fluid repellant masks but not when caring for "extremely vulnerable". But If the staff is carrying out an Aerosol Generating Procedure (AGP), then they will have to wear FFP3 masks. Please note, all the fluid resistant masks are not Type IIR. 

Can staff wear homemade masks?

  • No. The PHE guideline for care home mentions it is not recommended. 

Can staff wear FFP2, N95 or KN95 masks?

  • PHE guideline does not make any recommendation on using FFP2 masks. FFP2 masks offer more protection for the person wearing, from airborne transmitted infections. FFP2, KN95 and N95 are the different versions of similar standards used in EU, China and the US. For selling a KN95 or N95, the manufacturer should have a CE certification. High risk staff may choose to wear this instead of Type IIR masks. 

Housekeeping staff - do they have to wear masks?

  • If the staff is working in the communal area or working within 2 meters of a vulnerable resident, then they will have to wear the masks. Cleaners should be classed as a high risk category, hence providing them with Type IIR masks would be a sensible decision. If the home is affected with Covid, all staff should wear masks. The same rules applies for kitchen staff. 

Can I ask my staff to re-use masks?

  • PHE has consulted with HSE on reuse of PPE. Type IIR masks are disposable and it should not be reused. FFP2 and FFP3 can be reused as per the instructions here. 

What happens if I do not buy masks for my staff?

  • An employer does have an obligation to keep the staff, residents and staff safe as per HSE regulations. Care homes are expected to follow PHE guidelines. If not, it would be classed as a breach of regulations resulting in your insurance becoming void. 

What checks should I do before purchasing masks?

  • You should ask for certifications and test reports if you are buying masks from alternative routes. You need an expert to verify this as there are complex requirements around it. At a minimum level check if the EN report matches EN14683:2019 standards for Type IIR masks. Check the masks we have already verified here. 

Should Local Authority or NHS be buying PPE for our care home?

  • There is a big argument going on at the moment about this. Although there has been some funding released for this purpose, reaching the front line seems challenging. Meanwhile, you cannot compromise safety awaiting a response from the Local Authority or NHS. Take proactive actions to keep your staff and residents. 

Our expert has already verified any masks sold in carehomeshopping.com. You can view our range of masks here.