This article was originally published here
J Hosp Infect. 2021 Apr 30:S0195-6701(21)00177-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jhin.2021.04.024. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: Public Health England guidance stipulates the use of filtering facepiece (FFP3) masks for healthcare workers engaged in aerosol-generating procedures. Mask fit-testing of respiratory protective equipment is essential to protect healthcare workers from aerosolized particles.
AIM: To analyse the outcome of mask fit-testing across National Health Service (NHS) hospitals in the UK during the first wave of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
METHODS: Using the Freedom of Information Act, 137 NHS hospitals were approached on May 26th, 2020 by an independent researcher to provide data on the outcome of fit-testing at each site.
FINDINGS: Ninety-six hospitals responded to the request between May 26th, 2020 to October 29th, 2020. There was a total of 86 mask types used across 56 hospitals, 13 of which were used in at least 10% of these hospitals; the most frequently used was the FFP3M1863, used by 92.86% of hospitals. Overall fit-testing pass rates were provided by 32 hospitals with mean pass rate of 80.74%. The most successful masks, in terms of fit-test failure rates, were the Alpha Solway 3030V and the Alpha Solway S-3V (both reporting mean fit-test failures of 2%). Male- and female-specific pass and failure rates were provided by seven hospitals. Across the seven hospitals, 20.1% of men tested failed the fit-test for all masks used, whereas 19.9% of women tested failed the fit-test for all masks used. Failure rates were significantly higher in staff from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds 644/2507 (25.69%) across four hospitals.
CONCLUSION: Twenty percent of healthcare workers tested during the first response to the pandemic failed fit-testing for masks. A small sample revealed that this was most prominent in staff from BAME backgrounds.