Dr. Gary Sidley, a retired clinical psychologist and a contributor to the Daily Sceptic, has written an excellent piece for the Critic about the faulty reasoning behind the ongoing requirement for masking in healthcare settings such as hospitals and GPs’ surgeries. Gary, who also started the Smile Free campaign, wrote an open letter to the NHS chief executives of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. To date, he’s had responses from Wales and Scotland – and the responses 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 (for example here and here) and comprehensive evidence reviews (here and here) 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.
Worth reading in full.