South Essex hospitals to go ‘above and beyond’ with protective equipment but campaigners say it’s not enough

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Health staff have been promised a major boost in protective equipment when dealing with coronavirus patients after campaigners said current guidelines were putting people at risk.

Concerns over personal protective equipment (PPE) have been rapidly growing as the covid-19 virus has continued to spread and campaigners have begun urging the government to follow guidance from the World Health Organisation.

This change in standards would see all health staff provided with a full gown, visor and mask when managing suspected and confirmed coronavirus patients.

Current standards see health staff given just a plastic pinny and a surgical face mask.

But the Southend and Rochford Clinical Commission Group has now told the watchdog Healthwatch Southend that they will go “above and beyond” national guidance and begin recommending staff wear gloves, aprons and surgical masks.

In a letter seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, the chief nurse, wrote: “We are committed to ensuring that all staff have the appropriate equipment for the area they work in and the risk they are exposed to.

“We are following the clinical guidance of Public Health England (PHE), based in the extensive research they have access to and developed with the Royal Colleges.

“The advice has changed and nationally the distribution of supplies has been problematic.

“Like all other Trusts across the country we have had staff working around the clock to try to ensure we have sufficient PPE available for our staff.

“We are anticipating that there will be a further change in guidance coming from the PHE as a result of the increasing prevalence of Covid-19 in the community.

“We have made the decision today to go above and beyond the PHE guidance and advise all staff coming in contact with patients in clinical areas to wear gloves, aprons and surgical masks.  We are in the process of making this available to all areas that need it.”

It comes after it emerged that a Southend A&E nurse tested positive for coronavirus and is now in intensive care.

The campaign group Save Southend NHS said the response from the chief nurse is still not good enough.

A spokesman for the group said: “The PHE guidance does not protect staff working in covid positive hot zones who are consistently in close contact within 1m distance and exposed to droplets from patients coughing and vomiting.

“We learn this morning that a nursing staff member from Southend A&E is fighting for life in ITU.

“There needs to be an immediate change to guidance to protect staff and both the trust and this government need to implement World Health Organisation PPE guidance now – protect our staff – gown, gloves, mask and goggles or visor.

“This is corporate neglect and our staff is at huge ongoing risk.”

The Clinical Commissioning Group was contacted for comment.

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter