COVID-19: scientists recognise need for higher standard PPE for health care workers

26 Apr 2021

Now national infection control guidance must be changed to better protect staff, says RCN.

Protective equipment including gloves, a mask and goggles

A document released by the government's scientific advisory group (SAGE) says health care workers may need higher standard respiratory protective equipment (RPE) when caring for patients with COVID-19 outside of intensive care units. 

Current infection prevention and control guidance says thinner surgical masks are adequate, but the RCN fears these do not protect against airborne spread of the virus, with close contact with patients known or suspected to have COVID-19 in any care setting, the greatest risk. 

We’ve been campaigning for nursing and midwifery staff to be issued with FFP3 respirators as a precaution since December 2020. These are designed to filter out infectious aerosols particularly when in close proximity to patients.

RCN professional lead for infection prevention and control Rose Gallagher said: "The assessment by SAGE is a step in the right direction but we need the UK infection prevention and control guidance to reflect this change, so that health and care organisations feel confident they can apply it in line with local circumstances and risks.  

"We have heard many reports from our members that their employers do not feel able to deviate from the letter of national guidance for fear of being criticised.

"Changing the guidance would empower employers to find local solutions that offer a greater level of protection to nurses, midwives and patients."

In March, a report commissioned by the RCN showed the government’s COVID-19 infection control guidelines, which are used across the UK, are “flawed and need replacing”. 


Page last updated - 15/10/2021