Guidance to support staff in managing COVID-19 has been produced by the RCN, RCM and other trade unions.
The guidance’s aim is to make sure 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. It 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. The guidance, which includes a checklist, advises NHS trusts to put measures in place now so they are fully prepared should more cases be diagnosed.
‘Occupational exposure to infections is a risk to health care workers so it is essential that there is clear guidance for employers and staff,’ said RCN Associate Director of Employment Relations Josephine Brady.
‘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.’
The guidance recommends that 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; staff must be easily able to raise concerns with senior managers; and health workers treating patients with the virus must be able to take adequate breaks on, and between, their shifts.
‘These sensible contingency plans will help reassure staff, patients and the public that the NHS is fully prepared for any eventuality,’ said Unison head of health Sara Gorton.
‘Encouraging individuals to take everyday precautions is essential. But so is the need not to panic or feel unduly alarmed. Being fully prepared now could make the world of difference later.’