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Society raises PPE shortages and lack of Covid-19 testing with government

25 March, 2020

Author: Dean Rogers, Director of Industrial Strategy and Member Relations

PPE

Like other NHS unions and professional bodies, the SoR are recording member's concerns about the shortage of appropriate and safe Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

This seems to be especially acute in certain parts of the country, but is obviously a universal concern.

We are making direct approaches to the government on this issue.

Firstly, we are expressing our grave disappointment that poor planning has evidently contributed to increased risk for staff. It isn’t reasonable that at the start of this week government was still saying there was an adequate supply of the right PPE, but that it was just not in the right places.

The crisis has been looming since the start of the year and there is no justifiable reason why these supplies shouldn’t be where they need to be now.

Confidence in the government’s plan to rectify this crisis would improve if they would accept responsibility and explain how this is being put right. This has to include explaining what they are doing to identify other lines of production in the UK as a matter of urgency.

Secondly, we are informing government and senior NHS leaders that we are advising our members not to carry out procedures without the required PPE in line with the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the government guidance.   

We cannot allow our members to be put at risk. If suitable PPE is not provided, infection rates of health service workers will increase, leading to a depleted workforce.

We will continue to direct members to the advice on our website regarding this and other health and safety matters with the message being very clear: NHS leaders have legal, professional and moral duties to protect the health and well-being of their staff. In turn, this minimises the risks to patients.

This crisis amplifies this duty. Risk assessments are more important now, not less and the right equipment doesn’t stop being the right equipment just because of logistical failings.

Members who continue to have specific concerns after following our advice should contact the SoR directly via their local SoR rep and/or National and Regional Officers.

Increased Covid-19 testing
We are also raising at government level our continued disappointment that provision for adequate testing for Covid-19 is still not available to radiographers.

We are particularly dismayed by stories of some trusts and boards saying that radiographers are not 'frontline' and limiting this description to direct medical staff. This is both insulting to our members and deeply counter-productive.

Like the shortage of PPE, the evidence from elsewhere across the globe is that governments did know this situation was emerging and should have, if they value all of our NHS staff as much as they are now saying, made sure adequate testing arrangements were in place before now, especially given the evidence of the impact this has on stopping the spread and reducing the risk for health workers and patients.

Again, we feel confidence in the government statements that they are now working to get this right would have greater resonance with our members if they came with a public acknowledgement that the government has made mistakes up to this point.

We are non-partisan and politically independent and do not say this to score cheap political points. We say it because we know our members value honesty and integrity.

In this regard, as with PPE, our members’ confidence and morale would grow if such an acknowledgement came with clearer explanation about what is being done to secure higher rates of testing for all NHS staff, including radiographers.

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