Analysis

Exclusive: NHS removing PPE from cleaners, porters; clinical staff sharing visors; no proper PPE in maternity, say staff

Hospitals deny staff claims

Staff at two NHS hospital trusts have told the SKWAWKBOX that the government’s continuing inability to provide PPE (personal protective equipment) to hospitals has forced their employers to deprive staff at risk of infection of the PPE they need.

The SKWAWKBOX revealed last week that South Tees Hospitals NHS Trust – in common with hospitals across the country – is sending elderly residents with the virus back to their care homes, in spite of the massive risks to other vulnerable residents.

But staff at the trust say that porters whose duties include transporting the bodies of those killed by the virus – 7-10 a day even last week – have had their PPE downgraded, from full visors to masks only and that there is still a general shortage of all types of PPE.

Staff at Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust, meanwhile, have listed management actions they say are depriving them and their patients of protection:

  • domestics told not to wear masks or visors when cleaning coronavirus-contaminated areas because they are only for clinical staff
  • clinical staff forced to re-use and even share single-use visors, with some desperate enough to protect themselves that they are ordering from Amazon, at their own expense and with lengthy delivery dates
  • maternity staff told not to wear PPE

Any NHS staff not wearing full PPE that conforms to World Health Organisation (WHO) standards are not only at risk themselves, but also risk infecting patients – a study in Italy showed that at any given time 50-75% of those capable of infecting others were not showing any symptoms of infection.

Both trusts denied the staff’s claims and told the SKWAWKBOX that they were following national guidance from Public Health England (PHE).

However, the PHE guidance for infection control does not mandate masks for cleaners disinfecting coronavirus areas, even though the WHO has said that virus particles can remain airborne for several hours – and the guidance only says that masks should be ‘considered’ in some circumstances.

And even then only a surgical mask, not the FFP2 or FFP3 protection masks recommended by the WHO for health staff:

Before entering the room, perform hand hygiene then put on a disposable plastic apron and gloves. If a risk assessment indicates that a higher level of contamination may be present or there is visible contamination with body fluids, then the need for additional PPE such as a fluid resistant surgical mask, and eye protection should be considered.

Even the PHE guidance acknowledges that rooms can retain high levels of infectious particles unless a room has had at least half a dozen ‘air changes’.

The PHE notes on its latest guidance updates also still describe surgical masks as adequate, even though these do not protect against virus transmission according to the WHO – and the PHE table of recommended PPE does not include FFP2/3 filtering face masks for most areas even with confirmed coronavirus cases – even in maternity:

The guidance does not appear to provide guidelines for porters, even those transporting confirmed cases or moving bodies of those killed by the virus – nor to explicitly forbid sharing of ‘sessional’ or re-usable PPE.

The full statement provided by a Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust spokesperson is as follows:

The Coronavirus pandemic has presented the NHS with many challenges, one of which is the significant increase in the use of Personal Protective Equipment.

We have implemented the national guidance as published by Public Health England. This is very clear about what PPE should be used in which situation to protect our staff. We have enough PPE in stock, and are getting regular deliveries of new items.

Where it is necessary, all colleagues are required to wear the appropriate PPE, and this is provided to them. This includes Domestic colleagues. 

Our Maternity services colleagues have clear guidance on the appropriate PPE to wear and this is available to them. To be clear, guidance for Maternity colleagues sets out that PPE must be worn.”

The Daily Mirror has reported NHS staff forced to resort to holding their breath around infected patients because of the severe shortage of proper masks and eye-protection.

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15 comments

    1. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/apr/05/boris-johnson-admitted-to-hospital-with-coronavirus
      Downing Street insisted it was just a precautionary measure but Johnson’s admission on a Sunday evening comes after days of rumours that his condition has been worsening.

      A Downing Street spokesperson said: “On the advice of his doctor, the prime minister has tonight been admitted to hospital for tests. This is a precautionary step, as the prime minister continues to have persistent symptoms of coronavirus 10 days after testing positive for the virus.”

      The Guardian was told last week that Johnson was more seriously ill than either he or his officials were prepared to admit, and that he was being seen by doctors who were concerned about his breathing.

      But Downing Street flatly denied that the prime minister’s health had seriously deteriorated, and insisted there were no plans at that point for him to be admitted to hospital.

      1. He’ll be in the best PRIVATE hospital with the best of care and the best of DTrs and plenty of ventilators , no worries there .

      2. rob – It is worth noting that whilst the Irish government took over all private hospital facilities for the good of all the people the UK government contracted to rent some of the private healthcare facilities thus leaving a healthy stock of facilities for those that can afford to pay.

      3. The best private Hospitals can’t cure an incurable virus!
        Irony Irony Irony!
        You can bet Johnson is sorry he every shook hands with those infected!
        When your born with privilege you probably think your untouchable?
        This virus doesn’t know the class system.

      4. bbbarabas – You certainly have a far better chance if your immune system is given the chance to catch up because you have access to a ventilator.

      5. Despicable!
        Will you think the same if you catch the virus and face a lonely death?
        Have a little empathy for humanity’s sake.

  1. A friend of mine recently gave birth in a Leeds hospital and was tested for coronavirus before she was allowed to take her new baby home. She felt very unhappy to use the very scarce test, but saw the sense as her home also houses her two other children and her husband’s near-centurion grandfather.

    She reluctantly agreed to use the test and immediately saw how despicable our government’s failure (or refusal) to provide adequate test resources is. Moreover, the midwife who delivered her child has not once been tested for coronavirus infection and has put herself into self-isolation with a possible infection of the virus. The nurses’ union tells us that 23 nurses in Leeds are currently self-isolating due to possible coronavirus infection.

    This government’s incompetence destroys everything it touches, a Midas touch in reverse.

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