For some time now, nurses have been calling for all UK staff to be given a higher grade of face mask to protect them against new variants of coronavirus.
The Royal College of Nursing warned “that inadequate PPE may be putting the lives of nursing staff at risk”.
Although some hospitals are offering staff high-grade PPE, many are not – and that is leading to unequal levels of protection depending on where nurses work creating a postcode lottery for nursing staff.
NHS England data shows a 22% rise in the average number of healthcare staff off sick because of Covid-19 in the first week of January, compared with the last week in December.
David Oliver, consultant in geriatrics and acute general medicine reported in the British Medical Journal about the “Lack of PPE betrays NHS clinical staff” only last month.
He reported on a section of a National Audit Office report on PPE supply suggesting that supply lines had always been adequate and that no staff members had been put at risk.
However, a new report from the Public Accounts Committee said that “many healthcare workers” had been put in “the appalling situation of staff having to care for people with covid-19 or suspected covid-19 without sufficient PPE to protect themselves from infection.” It added that “health and social care staff had suffered PPE shortages as stocks ran perilously low,” with “some forced to re-use single use items.” The social care sector has not received anywhere near enough PPE to meet its needs, with many managers in healthcare settings now turning once again to the private sector to purchase adequate PPE and FFP3 masks to better protect their workforce.
Already, over 600 NHS staff have died from covid-19m and we know from Scottish data published in The BMJ that patient facing clinical staff are seven times more likely to be admitted to hospital with COVID-19 than other workforce groups. Staff working on general acute COVID-19 ward areas outside intensive care are at the greatest risk.
David Oliver also said,” We are putting our health and our lives on the line at work. Adequate PPE from our employers is the least we deserve to protect our workplace safety. It’s also crucial in preventing hospital or care home acquired COVID-19 infections, so any shortages put patients at risk”.
Public Health England responded by saying that there was no justification for changing the current specifications but did not reference the review and appraisal of empirical evidence on which it is basing its official PPE advice.
[Source: https://www.bmj.com/content/372/bmj.n438 / https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-55766409] [Photo: Gustavo Fring]