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NHS frontline staff at risk for airborne coronavirus, Boris Johnson warned

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NHS frontline staff are at risk because they are forced to work with inadequate protection against the coronavirus, major health organizations have warned.

A coalition of more than 20 health and scientific bodies has written to the Prime Minister urging him to step in and order a review of UK infection control rules so that workers receive higher quality masks.

They say new research shows the virus should be considered an airborne pathogen, and the current rules are incorrectly based on the idea that the virus is spread only through droplets.

Organizations including the Royal College of Nursing, the British Medical Association, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the Royal College of Midwives, told Mr Johnson: The evidence is clear and lives continue to be at risk.

In most general hospital wards, nurses and doctors should wear only basic surgical masks, although The independent revealed earlier this month that some hospitals were already defying the rules and distributing premium masks.

NHS data suggests more than 35,000 patients would likely have been infected with coronavirus while already in hospital between August and January of this year.

Despite the PPE shortages reported at the start of the pandemic last year, the UK has built up a stockpile of at least four months. But earlier this week, data from the British Medical Association showed one in five women worried about catching coronavirus from poorly fitted protective gear. Some staff also complained that they were not properly equipped for the masks.

Across the UK, at least 930 healthcare and healthcare workers are believed to have lost their lives to Covid-19, with many more suffering from the long-term effects of the infection.

The group said Mr Johnson had to intervene because Public Health England and the NHS were not doing enough.

The letter urged Mr Johnson to help prevent further loss of life by adding: Healthcare and care workers are three to four times more likely to develop and die from Covid-19 than the general public.

However, measures to reduce airborne spread in high-risk health and care settings, which are critical to the pandemic response, have so far been insufficient.

There is now no scientific doubt that Covid-19 is spread by air.

He added that existing guidelines do not accurately describe airborne hazards when sharing health and care settings, including working in patient homes and public buildings.

We believe that given the rapid emergence and evolution of new variants of concern, a change of approach must be implemented quickly to protect patients and staff in a consistent manner across the UK.

They called for official guidelines to be changed and for staff caring for patients with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 to be given better masks.

The letter says there must be better ventilation in health and care facilities and new recommendations to combat airborne risks from the virus.

It also calls for better collection of data on infections among health personnel in order to know the most risky environments. Finally, the letter calls for publication of all scientific evidence on airborne transmission in healthcare settings and new research to answer key questions.

We sent you this letter because your agencies and ministries have not yet sufficiently addressed our concerns. While we are aware that a review of the guidelines has been carried out, we cannot agree with its apparent conclusions that the guidelines should remain the same, the letter concludes.

A study by the University of Bristol and the North Bristol Lung Center found that NHS workers surrounded by coughing patients were at higher risk of contracting coronavirus.

Risks were previously limited to so-called aerosol-generating procedures, which can include tubes placed in patients’ throats to help them breathe.

Dame Donna Kinnair, Executive Director of the Royal College of Nursing, said: Our members tell us their concerns are not being listened to and that they feel unprotected by current government guidelines which appear to be one size fits all, no evidence. approach.

Some nurses who provide end-of-life care work overnight with a patient, without ventilation, near family members where the risk of coronavirus may be high given the rates of infection in the community today.

The equipment provided to them should match the risk they face and be available when needed, along with fit testing and training in their use.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Affairs: At every stage of the pandemic, the safety of our NHS and social service staff has been our priority and we continue to work tirelessly to provide the EPP to protect people on the front lines.

We also know that good ventilation can dramatically reduce the risk of the spread of Covid-19, which is why it is listed in tips to help businesses and healthcare and care facilities stay safe with Covid.

The government will continue to closely monitor new and emerging air transmission data and update its guidance as appropriate.

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