THE British Medical Association (BMA) is calling for the wider provision of Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) for healthcare workers in high-risk settings across primary and secondary care. The BMA says there is evidence indicating lower infection rates amongst staff where RPE is used.

The World Health Organisation has also modified its guidance to say that where respirators are available, they should be considered for wider use.

BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: “The Government can no longer continue to ignore growing calls to urgently review current PPE guidance for healthcare workers to protect them as they battle with rocketing infection rates and a highly transmissible variant of the virus.

“In a recent letter to PHE, the BMA warned that a failure to provide greater protection, such as FFP3 masks, in high-risk primary and secondary care settings, could result in more healthcare workers becoming ill, or at worst, dying. Furthermore, if healthcare workers become infected from inadequate PPE it risks spreading infection to colleagues and patients with serious consequences for the health service.

“Just as we have highlighted in a recent letter to the DHSC, Labour also rightly supports our call that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is not viable and places staff at further risk of Covid-19.

“As well as urgently reviewing the PHE guidance to ensure that higher levels for at protection are available to those on the frontline, it is also crucial that the appropriate PPE is given to healthcare workers to suit their individual needs.

“At a time when our health service is under unparalleled pressure and on the verge of being overwhelmed, having a healthy NHS workforce is absolutely fundamental to continuing the fight against this virus. Failure to act immediately on this will have a devastating impact, not only on the healthcare staff whose lives continued to be placed at risk, but on NHS’ ability to care for patients.

“The Government have continually praised the efforts of frontline staff throughout this pandemic but the most important thing they can do now is to ensure they are adequately protected so they can safely continue their lifesaving work.”

In the letter to Jo Churchill, Minister for Public Health at the Department for Health and Social Care, Dr Nagpaul wrote: “Female doctors are still struggling to find masks that fit, often failing the ‘fit test’ or being left with sores and ulcers after long shifts when wearing masks that did not fit. We have raised concerns in the past that PPE is designed to fit men, even though 75 per cent of the NHS workforce are women. Without properly fitting face protection, these staff are putting themselves at risk.”

* Read the letter to Public Health England here

* Read the letter to Jo Churchill here

* Source: British Medical Association