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COVID-19 staff faqs: wearing face masks in our hospitals

Information alert box Last updated: 8 June 2022

This is a fast moving situation and we will try to keep this page as up-to-date as possible.
Please continue to check national guidance on the COVID-19 pandemic.

If your question is not answered below, and you are a member of staff, please speak to your line manager or email

If your question is about an OUH HR matter that isn't addressed here, please discuss this initially with your line manager who can then raise it with the HR consultant for your Division.

Some links are to documents on the OUH internal staff intranet: if you are a staff member and cannot access the intranet, please email and we will send you the document you need.

Please remember guidance is likely to change rapidly, so check back to see if you have the most up-to-date version of a document.

Face mask FAQ

Where do I need to wear a face mask?

All staff must continue to wear masks in patient-facing areas in our hospitals.

This also applies to staff working face-to-face with patients outside our hospital sites.

Staff do not have to wear face masks in non-clinical settings, including in offices and break areas.

We recognise that some staff will prefer to wear a mask more widely, and this must be respected - many of our staff are also clinically vulnerable.

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.

Tips for wearing face masks (pdf, 271 KB)

Do the rules on wearing a face mask in our hospitals apply to just NHS staff or everyone who works in the hospital?

They apply to everyone working on our hospital sites including workers in our retail units, PFI staff, those employed by the University of Oxford and contractors.

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 do I have to wear each mask for 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.

Do I need to wear a mask in my office?


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 the appropriate areas in our hospital buildings. This applies to both clinical and non-clinical staff and to contractors and anyone else working on our sites.

What can we do if we're speaking to or caring for someone who is deaf or hard of hearing when wearing a face mask?

Identify which patient has hearing loss, and ensure a plan is put in place for how you are going to communicate with them.

Make sure you are facing the patient you are speaking to and speak clearly - avoid shouting, or speaking too fast or too slowly.

Write things down - use pen and paper, a white board, or text on device screens.

For patients who still have some hearing, make sure the environment is quiet and speak loudly and clearly.

If the patient uses a hearing aid, make sure they are wearing their hearing aid and the battery is working.

Use simple gestures, and sign language if known.

If someone doesn't understand you, repeat what you said or phrase it differently - remember to use plain language.

Face coverings for patients FAQ

Where do patients have to wear face masks?

When patients should wear masks:

Patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should be given a face mask on admission, and a fresh mask as required. This should be worn in multi-bedded bays and communal areas if this can be tolerated, and is deemed safe for the patient. They are not required in single rooms, unless a visitor enters.

In areas where patients are at high risk of infection due to immunosuppression (for example, Oncology, Haematology, and Transplant), patients are encouraged to wear a face mask when not in a single room.

In outpatient or emergency settings, patients with respiratory symptoms should wear a face mask, if tolerated.

When patients do not need to wear masks:

All other inpatients are not required to wear a face mask unless they would be more comfortable doing so.

Outpatients are not required to wear a face mask, but are encouraged to do so.

What if an outpatient / visitor is unable to wear a face covering?

For some, wearing of a face covering may be difficult, and therefore all other measures must also be considered and introduced. This could include social or physical distancing, timed appointments, being seen immediately, and not kept in waiting rooms.