Guidance to protect at-risk healthcare workers in Wales from coronavirus infection has been relaxed, the BBC has learned.
A risk assessment tool initially recommended high-risk workers should not work in the parts of a hospital where infection was most likely. But it now says their personal protective equipment (PPE) should be reviewed or duties changed.
The Welsh government says this reflects latest data and low infection rates. However, healthcare professionals say the change to the all-Wales COVID-19 workforce risk assessment tool was made without consultation, and are concerned it was done to prevent hospitals from losing frontline staff ahead of a potential second wave of the virus.
Mr Amol Pandit, a urologist who helped to design the tool, has written to the Welsh government four times seeking clarity on the basis for the changes, and why no one was made aware of them before the tool was rolled out.
"The changes could have been made in order to keep as many healthcare workers on the frontline as possible, which is why I sent a specific list of questions to the Welsh government, so that I could have assurances that it wasn't done for that reason, but for clinical, evidence-based reasons," Mr Pandit said.
Mr Pandit believes healthcare workers who fall into the high-risk category and work in environments where aerosol-generating procedures are performed - considered to carry a high risk of transmission of the virus - may not be fully protected by the current version of the tool if PPE supplies fall short and additional safeguarding measures aren't put into place.
"The government needs to be absolutely sure that there is adequate PPE and that it is going to be available to everybody - we have to trust them on that," he said
Source: BBC News, 27 August 2020