Exclusive report from the Health Service Journal by Sharon Brennan 13 November 2020

Thousands of frontline workers are still being denied personal protective equipment, according to multiple unions and professional bodies.

  • Eleven organisations call for list of procedures requiring PPE to be expanded
  • DHSC said the guidance is “kept under review”

Thousands of frontline workers delivering treatments where the risk of transmitting coronavirus is heightened are still being denied personal protective equipment, according to multiple unions and professional bodies.

Eleven organisations, including Unison and the British Association of Stroke Physicians, believe numerous procedures have been “wrongly excluded” from the list of 13 “aerosol generating procedures” that require PPE, despite the NHS now having adequate supplies.

They say their members are “facing illness and even death” while performing procedures such as chest physiotherapy, introducing feeding tubes, and assessing whether a patient can swallow safely.

The unions have formed an alliance to lobby on the issue, and its chair Dr Barry Jones told HSJ: “We’ve asked ministers and the Department of Health and Social Care again and again to take action and provide PPE to frontline NHS staff carrying out procedures which are not currently listed as AGPs but which the scientific evidence shows should be.

“The evidence on which PHE guidance is based is neither of adequate quality nor reflective of the latest evidence.

“Months later, nothing has been done, and as a result staff are unprotected – facing illness and even death, and putting their patients and colleagues at unnecessary risk. It’s no surprise that we’re now seeing anxiety and sickness absence on the rise amongst NHS staff.”

The alliance says a recent review of the guidance, published on 14 September, had not considered new evidence submitted by its members.

The alliance had previously sent a letter to the prime minister and health and social care secretary on 25 September which asked them to intervene on the issue.

The decision over which medical procedures require PPE is made by the government in line with guidance from Health Protection Scotland, Public Health England and the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group.

A DHSC spokeswoman said: “The guidance around PPE for aerosol generating procedures is kept under review by an expert body, based on the latest evidence, and is agreed between the four nations.”

The other organisations in the alliance are; the College of Paramedics; Chartered Society of Physiotherapy; Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists; Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association; National Nurses Nutrition Group; British Society of Gastroenterology; British Dietic Association; British Association for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition; and Unite the Union.

HSJ understands the shortage of PPE experienced in the first wave of Covid-19 has been resolved, with one well-placed source saying there are “now months and months of stock”.