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Government guidance continues to put staff and patients at risk from the airborne nature of Covid-19

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Fresh Air NHS, Patient Safety Learning and the Safer Healthcare and Biosafety Network are calling for urgent change to the UK government’s guidelines on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which are failing to adequately protect healthcare workers against the airborne nature of the Covid 19 virus.

In March 2020, UK PPE guidance for Covid-19 facing healthcare workers was downgraded, from requiring airborne protection for all staff, to only those in areas where aerosol generating procedures were commonly performed – mainly the ICU. To-date, approximately 1,500 UK health and care workers have died from Covid-19, with non-ICU healthcare workers experiencing far greater risk of infection than their better protected ICU colleagues. It is estimated that a further 122,000 health service workers who contracted Covid-19 are struggling with prolonged symptoms, often referred to as Long Covid.

Commenting on this, Helen Hughes, Chief Executive of Patient Safety Learning, said: “Providing enhanced PPE to everyone working in non-ICU Covid-19 wards would offer much-needed reassurance that our leaders are committed to protecting both patients and staff from avoidable infection and the associated consequences.

“The lack of recognition of the airborne nature of Covid-19 transmission from the UK government puts at risk the safety of healthcare staff, their loved ones and patients. There needs to be an urgent review of the PPE guidance to ensure that it is lawful, evidence-based, reflective of the airborne nature of the Covid-19 virus, and that safety is prioritised.”  

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Source: Safer Healthcare and Biosafety Network, 06 July 2021

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