The government must win back the confidence of NHS and social care staff amid growing anxiety over protective kit shortages, says UNISON.
The union has sent a letter to health secretary Matt Hancock urging the government to step up communication with health workers.
It says widespread confusion exists over what personal protective equipment (PPE) staff should be using, with contradictions between Public Health England and World Health Organisation advice only adding to the uncertainty.
UNISON is asking ministers to work with NHS trusts to clarify guidance urgently on PPE as concerns that shortages are compromising employees’ and patients’ safety grow.
The union wants the government to ensure staff receive clear communication from senior managers and infection control leads within each trust or health board
UNISON has also written to the Association of Ambulance chief executives outlining similar concerns as ambulance crews countrywide have reported an absence of PPE and often won’t know until they get to the scene whether someone is displaying Covid-19 symptoms.
UNISON head of health Sara Gorton said health workers need to know what masks, gowns and gloves they’re meant to have, when more supplies are arriving, and what to do in the absence of the correct PPE.
‘Over the coming weeks the entire country will be relying on NHS and social care staff. It’s vital the government acts immediately to reassure all health workers they’ll soon have everything necessary.
‘While supply problems are being addressed, staff need to know that the government and their senior managers are doing everything possible to sort issues.
‘Health workers need urgent clarification on what protective equipment is needed to do their jobs. Those in hospitals without the right supplies need to know when kit will arrive. And most importantly they need to know what to do if the equipment has yet to turn up or runs out.
‘This crucial issue must be sorted now before the country hits the pandemic’s peak. Staff in hospitals, health clinics and ambulance stations are the ones who’ll be looking after us all, risking their lives to save others. They need a guarantee everything is being done now to keep them as safe as possible.’
This comes after the government promised that care providers will receive personal protective equipment (PPE) to help prevent the spread of coronavirus by the end of this week.
A spokesman for NHS England said supplies of the ‘FFP3’ sterile facemasks are being delivered to NHS Trusts, including ambulance trusts, while home care providers, care homes, and hospices would receive at least 300 facemasks each.
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