Cambridge transparent mask design approved for NHS use
A see-through face mask that makes lip-reading possible, developed by a team at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge in response to a need highlighted by a nurse who wears hearing aids, has been approved for NHS use.
The transparent mask is now registered with the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) as a CE-marked medical mask, which means it conforms to health, safety, and environmental protection standards in Europe and can be utilised by hospitals, care homes and in primary care.
The idea was first mooted by Junior Sister Emma Ayling, who manages a busy outpatient department at Cambridge’s Rosie Hospital and is an accomplished lip-reader.
Ms Ayling, who specialises in gynaecology and early pregnancy care, said: “Within gynaecology, we undertake outpatient diagnostic services as well as consultations.
“I am able to lip-read patients and staff wearing the clear mask, optimising my level of care, compassion and communication.”
The masks are clear at the top with three-ply polypropylene filter material below the chin. They do not use metal components and so can be worn by patients and those administering MRI scans, and in operating theatres where communication between surgeons is challenging using non-clear personal protective equipment (PPE).
They offer the same level of bacterial filtration and splash protection as the blue surgical masks most commonly worn in medical settings, Addenbrooke’s said.
Professor Paul White, of clinical engineering department, led the project, which started last April.
Mr White said: “There has been a need for a clear mask, which meets our functional, bacterial and viral requirements, across the whole health and care system since the start of the pandemic last March.
“The mask has now gone through clinical evaluation, and independent viral and bacterial testing.
“It could be used across the NHS and Europe and there is no reason why it could not be used worldwide, with appropriate regulatory approval.
“I am very proud of not only my team but everybody working on the project, and our industrial collaborators who have brought this project to reality.
“It is with their input, determination and dedication during this difficult period, which will benefit the communication needs of our patients and staff and those of others.”
Manufacturing partner LJA Miers, based in St Neots, gave input to make the mask suitable for mass manufacture and is to be the manufacturer of the new clear mask, called the Panoramic Mio-Mask.
Tony Barber, commercial director of LJA Miers, said: “The company, which has a background in the automotive industry, completely repurposed its facilities at the start of Covid-19 to assist with the supply of visors.
“We are delighted to be doing our part in the fight against Covid-19 by providing clinicians and their patients the protection they need at such a challenging time for everyone.”
Paediatrician Dr Tamsin Brown, who tested the mask, said: “Clear face masks are needed for those with hearing challenges and is likely to have value for people without hearing difficulties but who find communication and interpreting emotions more challenging without seeing people’s faces. A likely game-changer for better communication in healthcare during the pandemic.”