Developed by Warwick design firm Contechs, the Transparent Fluid Resistant Surgical Face Mask was originally conceived to support communication between healthcare staff and patients who are deaf or hard of hearing. Following a 12-month development cycle, the mask is now claimed to have exceeded the performance requirements for single-use transparent face masks, which are intended to provide comparable protection to a standard Type IIR medical mask.
The mask has also received full approval from NHS England’s Technical Assurance Division and Four Nations Review Panel, while Dr Helen Grote, a consultant neurologist and campaigner for the deaf and hard of hearing, has voiced her support for the PPE device.
“I have seen and experienced first-hand the frustration of struggling to communicate with others due to increased face covering usage, so the approval of Contechs’ transparent face mask is welcome news,” said Dr Grote.
“Although face masks were vital in ensuring the safety of healthcare workers and patients across the UK, they also inadvertently had an adverse effect on the doctor-patient relationship – and what became increasingly apparent when working at my hospital trust throughout the pandemic was that for myself and the elderly patients on my ward, communication became incredibly difficult, especially for those such as myself who rely on lip reading.
“This in turn made patient care far more difficult as without clear communication between patient and doctor, communicating in a way that a patient understands – as the GMC (General Medical Council) requires – becomes incredibly problematic.”
According to Contech, the mask will be the only one of its kind authorised for use in medical settings nationally. The midlands firm says the development of the mask represents a £6.25m investment and the scale manufacture of the PPE equipment will create 150 jobs in the UK.
“We have made a substantial investment to ensure we achieved technical excellence, drawing on our automotive design and manufacturing expertise to produce a mask that is both cost effective and fit for purpose,” said Contechs managing director Peter Jarvis.
“Wearing a mask has caused tremendous difficulty for medical professionals working with people who are deaf and hard of hearing as well as children and the elderly. For this reason, we wanted to provide an affordable, sustainable and inclusive solution to ensure that medical and healthcare professionals across the UK are able to communicate with their patients as well as one another.”