Airborne transmission risk for healthcare workers, PM told

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The Prime Minister must update guidance for healthcare settings to include the risk of airborne transmission, a coalition of doctors and academics have said.

In a letter jointly signed by the British Medical Association (BMA) and other organisations, it says that the PM must assess and improve ventilation and provide a higher level of personal protective equipment (PPE) for hospital and care workers.

The letter also calls for government to collect and publish ‘consistent’ data on workers who have contracted Covid-19 from occupational exposure so hospitals can better protect staff.

Healthcare workers need a higher level of personal protective equipment to cope with airborne transmission of the coronavirus, says the BMA. Photograph: iStock

There is growing evidence that Covid-19 transmission is airborne. Microdroplets can remain suspended in the air and expose individuals at distances beyond two metres from an infected person, The Lancet reported in October 2020.

The letter to Boris Johnson states that measures to reduce airborne spread have been ‘inadequate’. “Current policies continue to emphasise the importance of fomite, droplet and direct spread but do not properly address airborne transmission.

“A change in approach must be implemented at speed to protect patients and staff consistently across the UK.”

Commenting on behalf of the Royal College of Nursing, a signatory to the letter, chief executive Dame Donna Kinnair said: “Some nurses providing end of life care are working overnight in a patients’ home, with no ventilation, in close proximity to family members where the risk of Covid-19 may be high given rates of infection in the community currently.

“The equipment they are provided with needs to match the risk they are facing and be available, if required, alongside fit testing and training on their use.”

Less than 28 per cent of doctors have felt fully protected from the virus in their place of work, according to a recent survey. The BMA polled 8,153 doctors in February. Most felt only ‘partly protected’ (64 per cent) with 557 doctors (eight per cent) saying they did not feel protected ‘at all’.

Read the letter here


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