“The guidelines have been watered down because of resource shortages and I worry that staff and patients have been put at risk as a result.”
DAUK Chair Dr Rinesh Parmar speaking to the Telegraph about how a lack of resources has led to a watering down of guidelines.
Excerpts from the Article:
The Government quietly relaxed strict controls to stop the spread of coronavirus in hospitals at the height of the crisis, the Daily Telegraph can reveal.
Whitehall officials watered down key aspects of the infection control guidance for healthcare providers as the pandemic worsened.
Scrutiny of amendments made by Public Health England shows that healthcare providers were instructed to avoid using temporary staff when assessing possible coronavirus patients because of the risk of spreading the virus back in January, but this guidance was later updated in mid-March to state that temporary staff were permitted after all.
The guidance published on 10th January stated: “The use of bank or agency staff should be avoided.”
In mid-March this sentence was removed and the only reference to temporary staff in the guidance stated that “bank, agency and locum staff should follow the same deployment advice as permanent staff”.
Last night experts warned that the safety of patients and staff has been jeopardised as a result of the guidance change.
Dr Parmar said that the changes to the guidance around temporary staff, and lifting the restriction on the parts of the hospital where staff can work are all down to ongoing staff shortages which pre-date the pandemic.
“Whilst the science might suggest that [avoiding the use of temporary staff] is the right thing to do to prevent infections spreading from one area to another, the reality is that the NHS relies upon temporary staff all the time – even in pre Covid….It goes back to the NHS being 50,000 nurses short and 10,000 doctors short coming into the pandemic.”
Health chiefs have written to every hospital and GP practice instructing NHS hospitals to take “further action to tackle infections acquired in the NHS itself”.
The government also watered down an early recommendation that clinicians use a “buddy system”, whereby another person watches for “inadvertent contamination”.
The original guidance said that the system was “recommended, especially during high risk procedures and PPE removal.”
But later versions of the guidance made no mention of using the buddy system during high risk medical procedures, and only said it should be used to monitor PPE removal “where possible”, for example where there is a “dedicated isolation room with anteroom” to allow the buddy to remain at a distance of two metres. The same guidance acknowledges this is often not the case.
Dr Parmar said the buddy system is a crucial measure for ensuring that health care workers do not accidentally infect themselves whilst removing their PPE and track Covid-19 back to their families and into the community.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The infection prevention control (IPC) guidance is kept under constant review and has evolved in response to the changing epidemiology of Covid-19 and the emergence of new evidence and science.
“Our guidance seeks to ensure a consistent and resilient UK wide approach, but is clear decisions should be made locally based on local epidemiology and each individual place of work.”