SIR – The team at Imperial College is to be applauded for trying to find ways of bringing down spiralling costs of the NHS (“‘Useless’ surgical masks could be scrapped”, report, November 8).
However, we were surprised to read that surgical masks are regarded as pointless. Not all equipment used in surgery is for the exclusive benefit of the patient, but may offer protection for the medical team attending them.
Face masks, especially those with clear visors, protect the operator and assistant from blood splashes. A study we undertook showed that the surgeon received splashes to the mask in 33 per cent of skin surgery procedures and the assistant in 15 per cent.
Cost savings of removing surgical masks from operating theatres would be significantly outweighed by just one healthcare worker becoming infected by exposure to bodily fluids of a patient that they are treating. Dr Andrew Birnie
Consultant Dermatologist, East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust, Canterbury Dr Sunny Varma
Consultant Dermatologist, Nottingham NHS Treatment Centre