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NHS Trusts 'not consulted' about changes to face coverings.

NHS trusts were not consulted before the government announced changes to the use of face coverings and visitor policy in English hospitals on June 6, a leading figure in the NHS has said.

Chief executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, said trust leaders felt "completely in the dark" about the "significant and complex" changes.

Hospital visitors and outpatients had to wear face coverings and staff had to use surgical masks from June 15.

The Department of Health said trusts had about a week to implement the changes and that NHS England had been made aware aware of the announcement before it was made public.

But Mr Hopson said the announcement by health secretary, Matt Hancock,  was "rushed out" with "absolutely no notice or consultation" with NHS trust leaders.

He said: "It's the latest in a long line of announcements that have had a major impact on the way the NHS operates, in which frontline organisations feel they've been left completely in the dark, and they're then expected to make significant and complex operational changes either immediately or with very little notice."

He said trust leaders were worried there was not enough planning and that it felt like "last-minute decisions are being made on the hoof that seem overly influenced by politics."

He said that the announcement had left many unanswered questions, such as when it was appropriate for staff to wear face masks, the numbers of masks needed and how they would be distributed.

Mr Hopson called for a "proper, sensible forward plan of what we are trying to do, where trusts are given the time and space they need to do complex and difficult things.”

Earlier, NHS Providers deputy chief executive, Saffron Cordery, said trusts were also nervous about the imminent lifting of some patient visiting restrictions.

She said they needed time to "put in place processes and guidance to ensure that patients can receive visitors safely and while adhering to social distancing and infection control measures."

Mr Hopson's criticism was supported by the British Medical Association (BMA), which warned there was "little detail" on how the policy would be implemented, where the masks would come from or how outpatients and visitors would be given them.

Consultants committee chairman, Dr Rob Harwood, said: "Given the lack of PPE supplies throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, it is absolutely crucial that the government ensures there are enough face mask supplies for staff, and adequate provision of face coverings for outpatients and the public, in time."