Dear Ian Peters and Jenny Harries,
I am writing on behalf of Doctors’ Association UK, representing front line doctors, to request urgent amendment to the outdated PPE guidance issued by the UKHSA, in the light of the Omicron variant, which we now know is extremely transmissible through the air.
It is increasingly clear that airborne spread is significant in the transmission of Covid, and particularly so with the Omicron variant. The current guidance makes an artificial distinction between normal patient care and “aerosol generating procedures”. We now know that breathing is sufficient to generate airborne coronavirus capable of infecting others who are breathing the same air. We call for an urgent review of the guidance to recommend full airborne protection for all staff in clinical areas.
With UK Omicron rates doubling roughly every two days we must treat every patient we see as being a potential carrier of Covid.
In order for NHS employers to discharge their legal duties under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act, we believe it is necessary to provide FFP3 masks for all staff working indoors where exhaled air from patients is circulating. The current guidance falls short of the appropriate level of protection and causes undue controversy and confusion for employers about how to fulfil their responsibilities. We have even heard reports of some staff being told to take off the FFP3 masks they have purchased themselves and put on unprotective surgical masks instead.
Currently large numbers of health care professionals are being sent to work wearing masks that would not meet the standards for the general public to wear on the bus in other European Countries.
Protecting NHS staff is of the utmost importance as we enter this new wave of the pandemic, which again threatens to overwhelm our capacity. We need to keep staff in good health and fully functioning at work. Addressing this issue is long overdue and I would be grateful if you could give it your urgent attention.
Dr L Hyde on behalf of The Doctors’ Association UK
Management in Practice covered our letter here