The Covid Airborne Protection Alliance (CAPA), which the BDA is a member of, welcomes updated Government guidance on respiratory protective equipment that will help keep healthcare workers, patients and the public safe.
The NHS and the wider healthcare system are still in the grips of dealing with the usual winter pressures along with the significant impact of COVID-19, not only on staff sickness levels but also with the ongoing delivery of services to meet the needs of the populations we serve.
As a result, the challenges of ensuring the safety and resilience of the NHS and wider workforce along with patient safety are greater than ever, notwithstanding the planned reduction in COVID restrictions announced on 19 January.
For the last 16 months CAPA has been campaigning to influence IPC Guidance to ensure that all healthcare workers can access the right level of respiratory protective equipment to protect them from COVID-19.
We have worked with the British Medical Association, Royal College of Nursing and British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) to support consistency of messaging to government, other key stakeholders and our workforce.
This includes alerting system leaders of the need to meet their legal responsibilities as laid out in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 etc for ensuring the safety of the healthcare workforce through the provision of appropriate respiratory protective equipment (RPE).
CAPA has evidence that more than 30 NHS Trusts across the UK are now leading the way in how they assess workplace risk and provide staff with appropriate levels of RPE including FFP3.
We are therefore pleased to see that, this week, the Government made important updates to two pieces of guidance that will help to keep healthcare workers, patients and the public safe:
Dr Barry Jones, Chair of CAPA said: “I’m delighted that the new IPC guidance makes it clear that healthcare workers can have access to enhanced levels of respiratory protective equipment without being restricted to the current list of aerosol generating procedures (AGPs) which is no longer relevant.
“The IPC guidance however does not specify how COVID-19 is transmitted, placing risk assessment at the mercy of individual employers or managers views or assumptions on this key part of the risk assessment process. We are pleased the Cabinet Office guidance explicitly states that COVID-19 is spread by airborne transmission, close contact via droplets, and via surfaces. Airborne transmission is a very significant way that the virus circulates.”
The Cabinet Office guidance is consistent with other government guidance such as that from the Department for Education (England) - Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the use of face coverings in education settings - which highlights that the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has advised that Omicron might show more airborne transmission.
Professor Kevin Bampton, CEO of BOHS added: “System leaders now need to mobilise their health and safety and IPC leads to ensure appropriate risk assessments are carried out and the right level of RPE is provided in a safe and effective manner. This includes ensuring that fit-testing for FFP3 is available, and reusuable FFP3 equivalent masks can also be accessed.”
Dr Christine Peters, Consultant Microbiologist for FreshAirNHS commented: “As SARsCOV 2 transmits by travelling in aerosols produced when breathing, speaking and talking it is crucial that healthcare workers are provided with the correct RPE to ensure protection for them and their patients. We are delighted to see a change in guidance that advocates for this in line with WHO and urge all employers to ensure rapid roll out of respiratory level protection for this airborne infection.”
CAPA was set up to ensure that procedures that our members undertake are recognised as AGPs in relevant policies and guidance to ensure our members receive the appropriate level of RPE and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to do their jobs safely.
AGPs are medical procedures that cause a patient to produce fine particles, called "aerosol" that can spread COVID-19.