Health board chiefs in Swansea Bay give these thoughts on the face mask debate

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Clinical experts are not keen on changing at Swansea Bay University Health Board’s policy on face coverings, but will prepare a paper for colleagues to consider.

The health board is following Welsh Government guidance on masks, which is different to other parts of the UK.

Hospital patients in Swansea Bay are not routinely supplied with masks, and one concern is that doing so – in addition to providing them to visitors – could reduce supplies for staff.

Speaking at a meeting on July 30, independent board member Mark Child said he’d recently worn a face covering on a bus and that he felt it sent “a psychological message”.

Independent member Martyn Waygood asked if the board would be prepared to take its own stance, while colleague Reena Owen said: “People are getting confused about face coverings.

“I do feel it would be helpful to have a definitive position.”

Face coverings are mandatory in Wales on public transport and in taxis, but not elsewhere.

Keith Read, Swansea Bay University Health Board’s director of public health, said there was evidence that face coverings reduced the risk to other people.

But he said there was also evidence that it lulled people into a false sense of security and led to less social distancing and hand-washing.

“My view is that we should follow the Welsh Government policy approach,” he said.

Departing from that approach, he said, posed difficulties and would require criteria to be agreed to justify it.

Mr Read referred to Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, North Wales, which is encouraging patients, visitors and staff at its sites wear face masks after a spike in Covid-19 cases.

“I think the situation at Betsi Cadwaladr is different,” said Mr Read. “They are responding to an acute set of circumstances – an outbreak linked to hospital premises.”

Medical director Richard Evans also said the health board should not deviate from Welsh Government policy on face coverings.

Board chairwoman Emma Woollett said: “As board members we have to take the advice of our clinical experts, but given the level of interest I’m wondering whether there should be a paper around the clinical evidence.”

Mr Read said: “I think it would be helpful to do that.”



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