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Frequently Asked Questions

Here are a selection of the questions we regularly get asked about wearing face masks/face coverings, the differences between types of mask/covering, and PPE products in general. Click on any question to read an answer.  Contact us if you have any other questions.

What is the difference between a face covering and a face mask?

face mask is designed and manufactured to be used in a healthcare setting.

face covering is not designed for the same uses, and is made from fabric or cloth and should cover your mouth and nose while allowing you to breathe comfortably.

Who should and shouldn't wear one?

The Government has made it mandatory to wear a face covering on all public transport and in shops in England. If you can wear a face covering but choose not to then you may be given a fine or refused entry/service. 

There are some people who should not wear a face covering, they are:

  • people who have trouble breathing
  • children under 3 years old (there are certain exceptions based on age, for example, under 11s do not need to wear a face covering on public transport, read the Government guidance)
  • anyone who finds it difficult to manage them correctly, for example if you have a disability.   

Young children should have adult supervision when wearing a face covering.

Do all hospital staff need to wear a face mask?

Yes. All staff - clinical or non-clinical - need to wear a face mask when at work, and when moving between different areas. This applies to staff working in all hospital sites.

Please remember - wearing a face mask does not replace social distancing and good hand hygiene. You should continue to practise these while wearing a face mask.

Can I just wear a face covering while at work?

Please check with your own company's policies for advice.

When can I wear a face covering, rather than a mask?

You can wear a face covering - so the fabric covering, rather than the mask - when travelling to and from work (face coverings are mandatory on public transport), or in areas where social distancing is difficult, such as in supermarkets.

How do I wear a face mask correctly?

  • Wash or sanitise your hands before putting it on
  • Ensure the mask goes up to the bridge of your nose and all the way down under your chin
  • Tighten the loops or ties so it's snug around your face
  • Avoid touching your face, or the parts of the mask that cover your nose and mouth
  • Wash or sanitise your hands before taking it off
  • Use the ear loops to take the mask off and wash or sanitise your hands afterwards.

How long can I wear each mask before changing to a new one?

There is no set time, nor recommended number of masks you should use each day. It all depends on what you are doing.

However, if your mask gets dirty, wet or damaged, or if you touch the inside of it, then you should change to a new one (following the steps above).

When you take it off to eat or drink, you should dispose of the old mask, wash or sanitise your hands, and replace it with a new one once you have finished eating.

How do I dispose of my mask?

If you work in a clinical area, please dispose of your mask as usual in an orange-lined clinical waste bin. Please dispose of your mask before leaving a clinical area and put on a new one to walk through the rest of the hospital.

If you work in a non-clinical area, please use the domestic waste bins throughout the sites (these are lined with black bin liners).

Following additional advice received from Public Health England we are reviewing our processes and will advise further if there are any changes

Do I need to wear a mask if I work in a private workspace where I work alone?

No, if you are working alone you will not be expected to wear a mask - but when you leave the private work area to move through the hospital building, for example on an errand or to get some lunch - you should put on a face mask.

What is a COVID-secure area?

A COVID-secure area is one where:

  • social distancing can be maintained at all times, with staff two metres apart
  • staff have easy access to hand washing and/or hand sanitising facilities
  • the area is regularly cleaned.

Staff do not necessarily need to wear a mask if all of these conditions are met at all times, however this is subject to a workplace risk assessment and must be fully documented.

I have a health condition and don't want to wear a face mask. What do I need to do?

In most cases face masks are safe for anyone to wear, regardless of health conditions, and all staff working on hospital sites are now expected under national guidance to wear face masks in our hospital buildings unless they are in a COVID-secure area (see above).

In corridors, lifts, on staircases and in any other communal areas staff are expected to wear masks. For those not used to wearing masks, they can initially feel restrictive, hot and uncomfortable, but for most, these feelings will improve in the short-term.

What happens if I refuse to wear a mask?

Wearing a face covering is required by law when travelling as a passenger on public transport in England. Some people don't have to wear a face covering including for health, age or equality reasons.

What happens if I have an allergic reaction to a mask?

Face masks have been used for years, and very few people experience problems. However, if you do experience problems, speak to your doctor in the first instance.

In the very unlikely event you experience an allergic reaction, please seek medical attention.

Is it ever acceptable to remove your face mask for any reason (e.g. having an asymptomatic swab) and then replace the same mask?

Once a face mask is removed from the face, it should be thrown away and replaced with a new mask due to the risk of contamination of hands/surfaces with respiratory droplets.