All healthcare workers must be provided with FFP3 masks when treating people with known or suspected COVID-19, the RCN has stated.
The number of staff off work due to COVID-19 rose by almost 60% in the most recent week and has more than trebled in a month to nearly 40,000 staff in a single day. The RCN says staff treating people with known or suspected COVID-19 must be given the highest grade FFP3 masks.
‘Too many nursing staff are exposed to COVID-19 at work due to improper protection – highest grade FFP3 masks and priority testing need to be provided as standard,’ said RCN Director for England Patricia Marquis.
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Airborne transmission of COVID-19 poses a significant risk to nursing staff working within two metres of a person with the virus, and the RCN insists this must be acknowledged within national infection prevention and control guidance.
Employers have a legal duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of workers from the risk of COVID-19. This includes making adequate PPE available to all staff as required, with training on use and face fit testing. If suitable risk assessments and PPE are not routinely provided, members should raise these concerns with their employer.
‘The top priority must remain preventing the spread of COVID-19. Nursing staff must feel confident this approach won’t inadvertently lead to the virus running rampant in their workplaces,’ said Rose Gallagher, RCN Professional Lead for Infection Prevention and Control.
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‘COVID PCR tests are the gold standard – they are more accurate and allow potential new variants, clusters and outbreaks to be identified,” she added. There is no room for compromise where patient-facing roles are concerned and instead of changing the guidance, the government should be ensuring health care workers are prioritised for COVID-19 tests.’