Organisations representing health and care workers have called on the Prime Minister to provide better PPE and encourage employers to improve the quality of ventilation in their workplaces.
A letter signed by 20 organisations including the Royal College of Nursing, the British Medical Association, the GMB Union and the College of Paramedics says that at least 930 health and care workers have died and many more are suffering from the long-term health effects of Covid-19.
It says government intervention is urgently needed to prevent further deaths among front-line workers who, research finds, face a three to four times greater risk than the general public of dying of coronavirus.
The group says it addressed the letter to Boris Johnson because government agencies and departments have not sufficiently responded to concerns from the health and care sector.
“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,” the letter says.
“There is now no scientific doubt that Covid-19 spreads via the airborne route.There is also direct empirical evidence that the virus is readily transmitted in healthcare settings beyond formally-classified aerosol generating procedures.”
It suggests that the current UK Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) guidance on the selection and use of PPE “does not accurately depict the airborne risks when sharing health and care settings including working in patients’ homes and public buildings” and does not convey the importance of ventilation.
“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 letter adds.
The group asks Johnson to:
- Ensure all health and care providers assess and improve the quality of ventilation in all settings
- Amend the IPC guidance to increase the level of respiratory protection as a precautionary measure for all health and care workers providing care to people with known or suspected Covid-19, or as a result of local risk assessments
- Update all guidance to reflect the evidence on airborne transmission, ensuring input from a multidisciplinary range of experts including engineers, occupational health, infection prevention and control and behavioural science
- Collect and publish data on health care workers who have contracted Covid-19 at work so that the settings where staff are most affected can be identified and targeted for improvement
- Publish all scientific evidence on airborne transmission of Covid-19 in the health and care sector.
Earlier this week MPs in the all-party parliamentary group on coronavirus called on the government to set up a compensation scheme for front-line health and care staff who had developed “long Covid”, and called for the illness to be recognised as an occupational disease.
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