Great Britain

NHS staff told to shave off beards over coronavirus fears as facial hair can render masks ineffective

NHS staff have been ordered to shave off their beards to help limit the spread of deadly coronavirus.

Hospital bosses have warned workers that facial hair can render face masks ineffective against the bug.

An email sent to staff at Southampton General Hospital urged fellas with a beard or moustache to get rid.

Medical director Derek Sandeman, who drafted the diktat, attached a graphic showing 36 styles of facial fuzz.

Small growths that can fit under a mask, such as Hitler-style tach, the “soul patch” and “Zappa goatee” are marked as acceptable.

But those with a bushier look, such as “mutton chops”, the “Van Dyke” or “full beards” are told to shave.

People that grow a beard for religious or cultural reasons are exempted from the rules.

The memo states: “You will see that the presence of facial hair compromises the ability to protect any individual through a mask.

“I am writing to ask those who do not have a strong cultural or religious reason for a beard and who are working in at risk areas to consider shaving.

“I recognise for some this is a big ask, that beards are so popular at present. However I do believe this is the right thing to do.”
The email says there have not been any cases of coronavirus locally but the hospital is seeing suspected cases.

MASK SHORTAGE

Staff in high-risk areas have been told to check their mask creates a seal against their face before they need to use it.

The Health and Safety Executive website says: “Many masks rely on a good seal against the face so that, when you breathe air in, it is drawn into the filter material where the air is cleaned.

“If there are any gaps around the edges of the mask, ‘dirty’ air will pass through these gaps and into your lungs.

“Facial hair – stubble and beards – make it impossible to get a good seal of the mask to the face.”

It says other styles of mask are available for people who insist on keeping their beard but still need protection.

NHS hospitals have been banned from stockpiling masks used to protect staff from coronavirus amid fears of a shortage.

Some hospitals were said to be panic buying.

NHS Supply Chain said: “We have seen an increased demand for personal protective equipment products over the last two weeks as NHS trusts have put in place preparedness measures.

“As a result, NHS Supply Chain is implementing controls on excessive order quantities to ensure stocks are managed fairly for all of its customers.”

The Department of Health said it keeps a large stockpile of medical products, including masks, to ensure uninterrupted supply.

University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust confirmed the email and graphic had been sent to staff.

Infection expert Dr Nathalie MacDermott, from King’s College London, said: “The danger of a beard when wearing a face mask is that the mask might not fit the person’s face securely and provide a sufficient barrier to protect the healthcare worker.

“This largely applies to any beard that may obstruct the secure fit of the mask.

“All NHS frontline workers under go a process of ‘fit testing’ to ensure that the masks they may wear when seeing an infectious patient fit securely and provide adequate protection.

“Some trusts may be undertaking this fit testing now in preparation and in order to conduct this properly may have needed to request some individuals shave their beards.”

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