Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health service, was commenting on the much-awaited revised PPE guidance for health workers in the UK from Public Health England, Public Health Wales, Health Protection Scotland, The Public Health Agency of Northern Ireland and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges today (Thursday 2 April).
Unite is still very concerned about potential logjams in the supply system in getting the actual PPE to the frontline fast enough.
Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “The much-awaited revised guidance on PPE for NHS staff is welcome. The guidelines have been approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“But this new advice will only be truly effective if PPE supplies reach NHS staff in sufficient amounts in the coming days – this is a national priority.
“How this guidance translates in reality for staff on the NHS frontline in the daily battle against coronavirus will be something we will be monitoring in the days and weeks ahead. The safety of NHS staff must be the top priority as they risk their own health, and even their lives, to save others.
“We do have continuing concerns about the supply chain regarding the delivery of PPE in a timely, adequate and free-flowing fashion. Ministers must be alert to any hiccups in the supply chain and act immediately to iron them out.
“The revised guidance wants to give health and social care staff the autonomy to make decisions, but they do not have that autonomy if they don’t have the equipment.
“We will be getting feedback from our members on how the revised guidelines are working and won’t hesitate to raise any concerns with the department of health and social care, and NHS England.”
Earlier this week, Unite, which embraces the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association (CPHVA), voiced concerns about the lack of PPE for health visitors and community nurses who make home visits to families with new born babies and young children.
Unite is also concerned about PPE for the thousands working in social care settings, such as care homes, who, the union said, are the ‘forgotten army’.