Universal Mask Wearing Rules Are Being Re-introduced in English Hospitals

By Owen Evans
Owen Evans
Owen Evans
Owen Evans is a UK-based journalist covering a wide range of national stories, with a particular interest in civil liberties and free speech.
July 12, 2022 Updated: July 12, 2022

NHS organisations have started to reintroduce masks in all clinical settings even though national rules have largely been scrapped.

The news follows junior health minister Lord Kamall telling the House of Lords that the extortionate free lateral flow testing scheme may return as well as prospect of mandatory masks if the rising number of cases has an impact on the NHS backlog.

“They [health officials] are still focusing on the backlog. If it gets to a point where it is affecting the backlog then clearly measures may well have to be introduced,” said Kamall.

Masks were dropped in April after the government published new guidance to support the next stage of the government’s “Living with COVID-19” plan. In May, Sajid Javid, the former health secretary, told NHS trusts to drop restrictions in hospitals and also threatened to name and shame NHS trusts that do not ease the measures as it can limit operational capacity amid record waiting lists.

NHS Universities Sussex said in a statement the changes were due to increasing COVID-19 cases in the community and nationally. Updated rules for their seven hospitals in Sussex came into effect on July 7.

“The number of patients and colleagues with COVID has risen recently and this rise is expected to continue. As a result, we are reintroducing the requirement to wear masks in all clinical areas of our hospitals, including corridors and public areas,” the organisation wrote adding that the recommendation has been made by its Clinical Advisory Group (CAG) and executive team.

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust also said it had become “necessary to reintroduce mask-wearing in all inpatient and outpatient areas” after a rise in cases.

Bosses at Northamptonshire’s two biggest NHS hospitals, Northampton and Kettering general hospitals, have reintroduced mask-wearing for all staff, patients, and visitors, because of a “significant increase in COVID-19” infections from July 12.

“The UK is now experiencing a very significant spike in COVID-19 cases and the current variants are very infectious. As a result, we are asking all patients and visitors attending our departments to please wear a mask,” they wrote.

King’s College Hospital posted last Thursday that masks are “to be worn in all clinical areas except children’s services.”

Responding to Kamall in the House of Lords, Baroness Fox of Buckley said “that there is anxiety about the rise in COVID cases, but less about the virus itself than a worry that politicians might reintroduce some of the over-the-top restrictions that led to such collateral damage during the past two years.”

“Hindsight or not, I make the point that people are nervous,” she added.

Owen Evans
Owen Evans is a UK-based journalist covering a wide range of national stories, with a particular interest in civil liberties and free speech.