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Statement on PHE advice on managing PPE shortages

On Friday 17 April, Public Health England provided updated advice on managing shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE).

It particularly addresses the current shortage of gowns, saying there are three main options that can be considered as alternatives:

  • Reserve disposable, fluid repellent gown or coveralls for AGPs and surgical procedures.
  • Disposable, non-fluid repellent gowns or coveralls with a disposable plastic apron for high-risk settings and AGPs with forearm washing once gown or coverall is removed.
  • Reusable (washable) surgical gowns or coveralls or similar suitable clothing (for example, long-sleeved laboratory coat, long-sleeved patient gown or industrial coverall) with a disposable plastic apron for AGPs and high-risk settings with forearm washing once gown or coverall is removed. These would need to be washed in a hospital laundry and capacity for hospital laundries may need to be increased.

In response, RCP president, Professor Andrew Goddard, said:

“It is now patently clear to everyone that the lack of PPE is the major issue that will limit our ability to fight this virus. These new measures are, at best, a sticking plaster. They will cause consternation among health and social care workers, all of whom are literally putting their lives on the line, as we are sadly all too aware.

“The lockdown is working: we are getting the virus under control out in the community. The lack of PPE risks allowing the virus to cause significantly more harm in hospitals and care settings. The government must redouble its efforts to solve this, the most critical of issues facing us in delivering the care our patients deserve.”

We have made it clear that we must all follow the PHE guidance for infection prevention and control. But we should follow the Resuscitation Council UK guidance in relation to CPR and resuscitation.

Do not begin CPR on a patient with suspected or known COVID-19 until you are wearing the minimum PPE recommended by RCUK for aerosol generating procedures: disposable gloves, disposable gown, FFP3 respirator and disposable eye protection.

Since March, we have been asking our fellows and members to tell us if they are unable to access the appropriate PPE, and about the impact of COVID-19 on the workforce. We have been sending that information to NHS England and government, and we will continue to do so.