New health secretary must act on evidence and update PPE guidance to protect healthcare workers from further ‘needless’ exposure, says BMA

by BMA media team

BMA Press release

Location: UK England
Last reviewed: 30 June 2021

In response to new research from Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which found that upgrading PPE for staff working on COVID-19 wards cut hospital-acquired infections dramatically, Dr Devender Khurana, BMA regional Council Chair for the East of England, said:

“For some time now it’s been fairly widely accepted that FFP3 masks should be given to all NHS staff who treat patients with COVID-19 or in areas where they are exposed to airborne particles from a patient. Much like Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge, some NHS Trusts are already providing FPP3 masks and sufficient occupational protection to all relevant staff. This is despite the fact that Public Health England guidance still doesn’t recommend wearing FFP3 masks outside of areas where there is the highest risk of infection.

“Around 1,500 health and social care staff have died and far too many have become ill as a result of the virus. While we don’t know exactly where these people became infected, this study tells us that staff caring for Covid-19 patients on ‘red’ wards faced a risk that was 47 times higher than those on ‘green’ or non-COVID-19 wards. 

“Considering the risk here it’s imperative that there is now clear guidance from Government which ensures that all Covid-19 facing NHS staff have sufficient occupational protection. We ask all Trusts to learn from this evidence and provide FPP3 masks to be worn by all relevant staff when dealing with Covid-19 patients. The new health secretary, Sajid Javid, has an opportunity to do the right thing here so we’d urge him to take this issue seriously and act on the evidence available to us in order to avoid even more healthcare workers being needlessly exposed to Covid-19.”

Notes to editors

The BMA is a trade union and professional association representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.