Prime Minister urged to improve PPE for health staff

In a joint letter a number of leading health organisations have demanded ‘a change in approach implemented at speed’ to protect health care staff and patients.

The letter, signed by the RCN and the BMA, amongst others, says that Prime Minister Boris Johnson must respond to evidence on airborne transmission of coronavirus by upgrading the UK’s outdated infection prevention and control (IPC) guidance, which currently leaves staff exposed to infection.

Research indicates that health and care workers are at three to four times greater risk of developing and dying from coronavirus than the general public and deliver care at ‘huge personal risk’. Since the pandemic began, more than 900 health and care workers in the UK have lost their lives to the virus, while many more are suffering from its long-term effects.

The signatories call on the Prime Minister to: assess and improve ventilation in all health care settings to reduce airborne spread; provide a precautionary higher level of respiratory protection for all health care professionals caring for people with known or suspected coronavirus, including in community settings and homes; update the UK’s IPC guidance to reflect the latest evidence on airborne transmission of coronavirus; collect and publish consistent data on health care workers who have contracted coronavirus from likely occupational exposure so we can better protect staff; and publish scientific evidence on airborne transmission in health care settings, while supporting research to fill any knowledge gaps.

The letter to Boris Johnson states: “Measures to reduce airborne spread in high-risk health and care settings, which are mission-critical to the pandemic response, have thus far been inadequate. Current policies continue to emphasise the importance of fomite, droplet and direct spread but do not properly address airborne transmission.

“We believe that given the rapid emergence and evolution of new variants of concern, a change in approach must be implemented at speed to protect patients and staff consistently across the UK.

“This is a UK-wide issue, where coordinated, national action could make a decisive difference. We therefore look to the UK government, and you as Prime Minister, to take the lead to address the inconsistencies and gaps in guidance and in the protection of patients and health and care workers.”