Personal protective equipment and COVID-19 guidelines
This short briefing sets out some guiding principles, based on guidance at www.gov.uk/coronavirus that can be used to tailor local requests for PPE.
First and foremost, the ‘stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives’ message means most council employees must think differently about how they provide support to people – and where possible stop face to face contact unless absolutely this cannot be avoided.
When should PPE be worn?
The key issues governing requirement for employees to wear PPE is the risk of exposure to someone with symptoms of COVID-19, and likelihood of transmission because of the care or procedures they are having to carry out.
In care settings such as nursing or residential care homes, there may be an increased risk of care workers being exposed to people with symptoms of COVID-19 especially as cases in the community start to increase.
Anyone who is carrying out an essential role for Councils that involves face to face personal care of people with symptoms likely to be COVID-19 must wear appropriate PPE. Guidance on PPE for employees working in these settings can be found here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-personal-protective-equipment-use-for-non-aerosol-generating-procedures
Because of shortages of PPE, it should only be worn to reduce the risk of transmission where there is a high likelihood that care is being given to someone who has symptoms of COVID-19 – not for general contact and care of people who do not have symptoms. In other cases, usual infection control good practice should apply – e.g. cleaning of surfaces, handwashing.
Who should wear PPE?
Adult social care – any employee required to have regular contact to provide personal care and support to someone likely to have symptoms of COVID-19 or a diagnosis of the disease.
Children’s services including schools, nurseries, social care – similar principles apply – if a social worker is visiting a child being treated for COVID-19 they should wear PPE.
In other community settings like early years and schools, any child or young person with symptoms of COVID-19 should be self-isolating as soon as possible. PPE not considered necessary if public health guidance is being followed by people with symptoms.
Place services – there have been questions asked about the requirement for public facing staff working in registries, crematoria services, and waste operatives sharing cabs. Again, if they are coming into contact with the public social distancing should be practiced as much as possible, i.e. keeping the 2m distance where possible. Anyone with symptoms should be self-isolating and not going out, so PPE should not be required for employees.
It is crucial in all roles that you follow excellent hygiene practices, including washing your hands regularly for 20 seconds especially before and after visits. For waste operatives, there may be changes that could be introduced to reduce the need to share cabs. But overall, if people are working together in essential roles, and do not have symptoms, there is no need for PPE.
There have also been enquiries about what to do if transporting someone to accommodation who may be symptomatic. In this case, following social distancing guidance and practicing rigorous hygiene measures should be sufficient.
Our key message is not to use PPE in non-clinical settings where it may be wasted, when social distancing and hygiene measures should be sufficient.
Community settings, including voluntary sector who may be involved in support for shielding vulnerable people – again, the guidance on social distancing and shielding must be followed as closely as possible. There is no need for someone supporting a vulnerable person to wear PPE. They should find ways to limit or eliminate face to face contact. If care has to be delivered to the person, they must follow the guidance on handwashing and hygiene as soon as they arrive at the persons’ home. Anyone developing symptoms likely to be COVID-19 must self-isolate immediately.
If members of the public or indeed their colleagues do appear to be showing symptoms of a fever and/or a cough then it is acceptable to ask them to go home immediately.