Hundreds of healthcare workers call for upgraded PPE

5 January 2021, 15:45

Healthcare workers are three to four times more likely to become infected than the general population
Healthcare workers are three to four times more likely to become infected than the general population. Picture: PA

By Matt Drake

Hundreds of doctors, nurses and consultants say healthcare workers need upgraded personal protective equipment (PPE) amid growing concern over the airborne transmission of coronavirus.

In an open letter to political leaders, the healthcare workers are urging political leaders to give staff on general wards the highest grade of PPE.

Healthcare workers are three to four times more likely to become infected than the general population, the letter says.

But staff in intensive care units who have the best level of protection - a type known as FFP3 that includes an air filter - have about half the risk of catching Covid than workers on general wards.

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The letter states: "This correlates with increased aerosol protection provided by higher-grade PPE and increased air exchanges in ITUs (intensive care units)".

"It is now essential that healthcare workers have their PPE upgraded to protect against airborne transmission."

Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said: "Nursing staff and all healthcare professionals need urgent reassurance from government ministers and scientists that they are sufficiently protected from the new variant, both by PPE and safety procedures in their place of work.

"Without delay, they must state whether existing PPE guidance is adequate for the new variant."

She called for staff working with suspected or confirmed Covid-19 cases to be given higher-level PPE and urged a review "of the effectiveness of ventilation in health and care buildings".

The UK had a shortage of adequate PPE during the first lockdown in March 2020.

At that time, it was believed that you had to catch the disease you had to be close to an infected person and be hit by droplets from their coughs and sneezes or touch a surface which was contaminated.

But it is now believed to be possible for the virus to be carried in aerosols drifting in the air.

Most infections are thought to have happened in badly ventilated rooms which is why people are urged to open their windows in order to "blow out" the virus particles.

The guidance across hospitals in the UK is to wear a surgical mask in most areas.