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Unclear UK advice on PPE cited in home care COVID-19 death inquiry

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A home care worker who did not wear protective equipment may have infected a client with a fatal case of coronavirus during weeks of contradictory government guidance on whether the kit was needed or not, an official investigation has found.

The government’s confusion about how much protection care workers visiting homes needed is detailed in a report into the death of an unnamed person by the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB), which conducts independent investigations of patient safety concerns in NHS-funded care in England. It was responding to a complaint raised by a member of the public in April.

The report shows that Public Health England published two contradictory documents that month. One advised care workers making home visits to wear PPE and the other did not mention the need. The contradiction was not cleared up for six weeks.

The government’s guidance had been a shambles that had placed workers and their vulnerable clients at risk, the policy director at the United Kingdom Homecare Association, Colin Angel, said on Wednesday. The association also accused the government of sidelining its expertise and publishing new guidance with little notice, sometimes late on Friday nights, meaning that it was not always noticed by the people it was intended for.

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