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Face masks and ventilation vital in health and care settings beyond 19 July

Government must protect health staff and vulnerable patients as COVID-19 rules loosen, says the RCN, BMA and others in a joint letter to the Prime Minister.

Nurse treats COVID-19 patient

Today (14 July), we have written to the Prime Minister demanding support and protection for health and care staff when COVID-19 rules are loosened next week.

In a joint letter with the British Medical Association, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, British Dental Association and College of Optometrists, we stress the importance of continued protective measures in health and care settings. 

Members of the public should continue wearing face masks, social distancing and washing hands regularly. Staff must be given the appropriate level of PPE and ventilation in their workplaces.

The letter states: “The need to recognise health and care settings as unique environments for the care and safety of the most vulnerable is paramount. While you state that you would expect the public to continue wearing face coverings in healthcare settings, we ask that this is translated into action.

“We cannot accept knowingly allowing patients and staff to become infected by the virus and becoming ill in a setting that is meant to look after peoples’ health. We would be failing in our duty to patients by putting them at risk of avoidable harm.

“As the rules change, this must be backed by clear government communications for the public, so that health and care staff are not caught in the middle and placed at increased risk of abuse.”

The letter also reiterates our continued call for proper respiratory protection for health workers. We have repeatedly requested FFP3 masks for all health and care staff in close contact with patients who are known or suspected to have COVID-19. 

Jude Diggins, Interim Director of Nursing, Policy and Public Affairs at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “The recent increase in the number of COVID-19 cases shows that we have some way to go before being free from the pandemic. Using face masks, social distancing and handwashing must continue if we are to continue to protect the population.

“It is important to recognise that nursing staff are more vulnerable than the general public as they work closely with patients who may have contracted COVID-19. To keep them safe, they must be provided with and supported to use the highest level of protection through the use of FFP3 masks where necessary and in all environments.”