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Prime Minister must act on ‘inadequate’ protection of health workers, healthcare leaders say

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Protection is still inadequate, the experts say Protection is still inadequate, the experts say

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, must help prevent further loss of life by acting on the evidence around the need for better ventilation and higher grade PPE, a coalition of health experts has stated in a joint letter.

According to the letter, signed by organisations including the RCN and the BMA, health and care workers are at three to four times greater risk of developing and dying from COVID-19 virus than the general public and deliver care at huge personal risk. Across the UK, at least 930 health and care workers to date have lost their lives and many more are suffering from long-term adverse effects of COVID-19.

Read more: Frontline workers left ‘risking lives to provide treatment’

‘Health and care workers are at three to four times greater risk of developing and dying from COVID-19 than the general public. However, measures to reduce airborne spread in high-risk health and care settings, which are mission-critical to the pandemic response, have thus far been inadequate. Current policies continue to emphasise the importance of fomite, droplet and direct spread but do not properly address airborne transmission,’ the letter states.

‘We believe that given the rapid emergence and evolution of new variants of concern, a change in approach must be implemented at speed to protect patients and staff consistently across the UK.’

The experts argue that current policies over-emphasise the importance of fomite, droplet and direct spread at the expense of mission-critical measures to reduce airborne transmission in high-risk health and care settings, which remain inadequate. UK Infection Prevention and Control guidance, which determines PPE use across the UK, does not convey the importance of ventilation and the risks when sharing health and care settings - including working in patient’s homes and public buildings.

Read more: Some nurses at risk of being left behind on vaccination

‘This is a UK-wide issue,’ added the letter. ‘Where coordinated, national action could make a decisive difference. We therefore look to the UK Government, and you as Prime Minister, to take the lead to address the inconsistencies and gaps in guidance and in the protection of patients and health and care workers.’

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