Friday, April 19, 2024
HomeCOVID-19Spread the word, and make masks history

Spread the word, and make masks history


SMILE Free is an organisation with a simple mission: to repeal mask mandates in the UK. Why? Well, the evidence is just not good enough to justify compulsory face masks. They come with numerous harms and should go for good now. 

The fact is that before June 2020, public health organisations, and their experts, did not endorse masking healthy people in the community as a means of reducing viral transmission. Yet mandatory ‘face coverings’ – accompanied by huge fines for non-compliance – were imposed upon the UK public by ministerial diktat in summer 2020. As readers of this site are well aware, there was no discussion, debate, or even clarity under what conditions mandates would be removed. This is despite the growing evidence of harms, and the near total lack of real-world evidence of efficacy. 

The worrying thing is that masking requirements still have a foothold in many healthcare settings which even if you are not directly affected remains a problem. Firstly it normalises masking and ingrains it as a habit. Secondly it reinforces the fiction that widespread masking significantly reduces viral spread (it doesn’t) while gaslighting the population into believing they must wear them to help the NHS, and to be a good citizen.

All of which, Smile say, makes the reintroduction of mandatory masking in other areas this winter more likely. 

Smile Free have been busy over the summer countering all this. They sent an open letter, signed by around 9,000 people including more than 2,000 doctors and other medical professionals, urging the heads of the NHS in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to ditch the mask in healthcare settings.

They are yet to receive replies from NHS England’s chief executive Amanda Pritchard, or Robin Swann who is Northern Ireland’s Minister of Health. However NHS England did change their guidance on 8 June which effectively left masking ‘requirements’ to the discretion of local healthcare sites. This was welcome in some ways. Smile warned that ‘by far the most likely outcome is that masking in English hospitals will now become a “postcode lottery” based on the whims of local staff,’ and so it has come to pass.

NHS Scotland [here] and NHS Wales [here] did reply to their open letter. 

Smile Free’s Dr Gary Sidley summarised the issues with both responses in an article for The Critic, an excerpt of which follows:

‘Although the NHS Scotland reply contains some welcome elements — for example, endorsing the principle that no patients should be refused treatment (nor visitors refused access to loved ones) should they choose not to wear a face covering — both formal responses from the NHS executives contain three fundamental flaws in their attempts to justify the persistence of widespread masking in their clinical areas.

‘First, contrary to the evidence, there is an underlying assumption that masks are effective in reducing viral transmission. They defend this position by mostly citing reviews conducted by state-funded public health bodies, with insufficient weight given to independent researchers who have conducted randomised controlled trials in real-life settings and comprehensive evidence reviews that all conclude that masking healthy people achieves no appreciable benefits.

‘Second, it is likely that NHS directives regarding how staff can promote the wearing of face coverings — expressed as “politely encouraged”, “strongly encouraged”, “highlight the benefits” and “recommended” — will habitually morph into the harassment of those people opting not to follow this advice. Consequently, there is a risk of alienating a vulnerable subset of the general public (for example, the elderly, the previously traumatised and those with existing mental health problems), thereby discouraging them from both seeking medical help and visiting hospitalised loved ones.

‘Third, and most importantly, both responses from the NHS chief executives convey a blinkered perspective on risk. They focus almost exclusively on the threat associated with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, whilst disregarding the substantial non-Covid harms resulting from the expectation that everyone should wear masks in hospitals, GP practices and health centres. Some of these negative consequences of masking are especially problematic in healthcare settings, including: impaired communication between staff and service users; the aggravation of respiratory problems; the re-traumatising of those with histories of physical and sexual abuse; and the increased risk of falls for the elderly due to the restriction of lower peripheral vision. Apart from fleeting references to “glasses steaming up” and staff sometimes feeling “hot and uncomfortable”, the NHS executives fail to acknowledge the wide-ranging physical, social and psychological harms of masking.

‘By failing to consider many of the potential harms of face coverings, it is highly questionable whether the NHS is acting in the best interests of service users. Furthermore, this neglect of the risks associated with masks may leave the NHS vulnerable to future complaints and litigation. How could the NHS defend itself against claims that their blanket masking policies were responsible for catastrophic outcomes? A hard-of-hearing man, for example, who accidentally overdosed on prescribed medication after a mask rendered his doctor’s instructions inaudible? An elderly lady who died shortly after fracturing her femur in a fall after being pressured to wear a mask in an urgent care department?’

This issue of potential liability for harms caused by masking in healthcare is not theoretical – a coroner reported that a man died at Watford General Hospital when ‘as a result of failure in verbal communication between the doctors, aggravated as both were masked, a dose of 15mg/kg was heard as 50mg/kg and an overdose was administered’.

Smile Free was created to stop forced masking in the UK, and they are sticking doggedly to that task. They have sent replies to NHS Scotland (here) and NHS Wales (here), and they are investigating different avenues including the possibility of legal action. They have also put together first hand video accounts from a range of healthcare professionals expressing the issues with masks in healthcare to encourage hospitals and GP surgeries to #MoveOnFromMasks

We encourage you to take a look at their informational webinar from last month (‘Masks in the working environment: what does the law say?’) if this affects you, and share it with friends, family, colleagues.

If you appreciated this article, perhaps you might consider making a donation to The Conservative Woman. Unlike most other websites, we receive no independent funding. Our editors are unpaid and work entirely voluntarily as do the majority of our contributors but there are inevitable costs associated with running a website. We depend on our readers to help us, either with regular or one-off payments. You can donate here. Thank you.
If you have not already signed up to a daily email alert of new articles please do so. It is here and free! Thank you.

Edited by Kathy Gyngell

Sign up for TCW Daily

Each morning we send The ConWom Daily with links to our latest news. This is a free service and we will never share your details.