The guidance has been sent to NHS trusts across the UK to help ensure the NHS is fully prepared should any patients with suspected COVID-19 (coronavirus) require a diagnosis or treatment.
Its aim is to make sure health care staff know exactly what to do to support people who are concerned they have the virus, and how to treat infected patients with minimal risk to themselves.
The guidance also seeks to reassure staff, patients and the public, and to encourage people to take everyday precautions to help prevent wider spread of coronavirus.
Currently, the handful of coronavirus cases in the UK are being treated in specialist units. This guidance, which includes a checklist, advises NHS trusts to put measures in place now so they are fully prepared should more cases be diagnosed.
- all staff – including those employed by contractors – must know how to lower their infection risk, for example with regular hand washing and using – and disposing of – tissues
- ambulance and emergency department staff must know what to do should someone suspected of having the virus require treatment
- trusts must assess which employees would be most at risk should there be confirmed cases
- measures to limit the spread of infection must be identified, for example how to put on and take off protective equipment safely
- staff must be easily able to raise concerns with senior managers
- health workers treating patients with the virus must be able to take adequate breaks on, and between, their shifts
- staff treating suspected cases must know exactly what to do if they begin to feel unwell
- the details of those working in direct contact with ill patients must remain confidential.
RCN Associate Director of Employment Relations Josephine Brady said: “Occupational exposure to infections is a risk to health care workers so it is essential that there is clear guidance for employers and staff.
“Nurses and other health care workers are crucial to halting the spread of the virus and must be supported by employers to protect themselves and the public as the situation develops.”
To read the guidance, visit NHS Employers’ website.