Better PPE needed at Southend Hospital

NHS campaigners are backing an “urgent” bid to get more protection for frontline medical staff at Southend Hospital, in the face of rising cases of the Omicron variant of COVID.

Save Southend NHS is supporting the British Medical Association (BMA), the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association and the Doctors’ Association UK, in calling for frontline personnel to be given FFP3 masks. These three groups represent clinicians across the UK.

The BMA said that higher-quality face masks would save the lives of health workers who fall ill as a result of treating COVID patients, adding: “At this critical point in the pandemic this is extremely urgent.”

The Government says the FFP3 masks should be worn where airborne infection is suspected, but latest NHS guidelines say this should only be in “exceptional circumstances”.

A Save Southend NHS spokesman said the group were not aware of masks being available to staff in Southend Hospital, which is part of the Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust alongside Basildon and Broomfield hospitals.

They said: “We can only advise that at Southend there has not been any communication of any change in policy nor any communication advising that people can wear FFP3 masks if they wish, and if so any communications about further fit testing and where to get kit from.

“In addition there has been no increase in FFP3 equipment actually in the departments, so in reality there is no option to wear it as stock would run out virtually immediately and leave none available for when AGPS ( high risk procedures) are needed and it is used already.”

Trials at Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge have show that FFP3 masks, also known as filtering facepiece respirators, reduce the number of healthcare staff who become infected with Omicron.

The BMA has written to every hospital trust in England demanding that any health professional treating patients who are or may be Covid-positive should be routinely issued with FFP3s, which are much more expensive than the surgical masks usually provided.

Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust was contacted for comment

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter