Following the release of new national guidance, it will be a requirement for all staff, patients attending for appointments, and visitors to wear a face mask in clinical areas in hospitals in the Western Isles from Monday (June 29).

It is important to point out that there is still no current evidence of sustained transmission of Covid-19 within or across the Western Isles, but this new measure is being introduced as a precautionary step, says NHS Western Isles.

"Existing visiting restrictions remain in place in our hospitals. However, from Monday, any visitors or those attending for appointments at Western Isles Hospital in Stornoway, Ospadal Uibhist agus Bharraigh in Benbecula and St Brendan’s in Barra, will be asked on arrival at hospital to remove any face coverings they are wearing.

"Masks, along with alcohol based hand rub and bins will be located outside clinical departments in the hospitals."

NHS Western Isles Nurse & AHP Director/Chief Operating Officer, William Findlay, stated: “This new measure is important because it is recognised that some people are unaware that they have the virus and do not have any symptoms. The use of face masks in clinical areas will help to prevent transmission of the virus from the person wearing the face mask to other people.”

Mr Findlay added: “There will be occasions when staff may have to remove masks in clinical areas when communicating with patients who have a cognitive impairment, or people who require to lip read. In these cases, physical distancing will be maintained.

“There will also be certain exemptions in terms of those who will not have to wear masks, such children; or anyone with a physical or mental illness or impairment, or a disability that means you cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering.”

There will be prominent signage around NHS Western Isles premises providing information about hand hygiene, physical distancing requirements and departments where there is controlled access e.g. maximum number of people in the department at a time.

"NHS Western Isles is constantly monitoring guidance and will ensure compliance with new measures, recommendations and best practice to protect our patients and staff.

"We would like to thank our local communities in advance of this new measure, for their ongoing support and compliance with new ways of working, to help ensure the safety of our local communities and our NHS staff."