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Covid-19: Personal protective equipment (PPE)

Version 7. 3 April 2020.

On Thursday 2 April, the Government released new guidance on the use of PPE, which can be read here. 

Whilst the SoR welcomes the new guidance and its emphasis on risk assessment it doesn’t go far enough as it concentrates on patients with suspected or confirmed cases of Covid-19.

As we know social distancing is used to reduce the spread of the virus precisely because we don’t know who has it and who hasn’t. Therefore everyone is a possible risk. It is regrettable that this is not made clear in the guidance.

The Society of Radiographers position on PPE remains the same – carry out a risk assessment on every patient.

For clarity a risk assessment can be carried out by every radiographer, they just need to ask this simple question: Can I image or treat this patient without approaching within 2m of them? If the answer is no then you need PPE. If you are not provided with appropriate PPE then you should not be treating or imaging that patient.

Please see PPE and the importance of workplace risk assessments.

The employer has a duty of care to staff under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which cannot be ignored or diluted. If the employer is not able to reduce the risk to the lowest that is reasonably possible by providing PPE, then there is no requirement on the staff to undertake that work. This applies to health care professionals and is, in fact, critical if the NHS is to function.

Risk assessment must include the 2m minimum safe distance that we are all instructed to maintain. When the two metre rule is included in risk assessments, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that PPE should be used for ALL patients unless they have been tested negative for Covid-19.

The Society of Radiographers continues to advise members, in the strongest possible terms, that they must be provided with the minimal appropriate PPE when dealing with all patients.

No members should be expected to put their life and the lives of their families at risk because of the lack of adequate protection. The lives of our members are as important as those of the patients they care for.

Some trusts have already moved in this direction following the refusal of medical staff to see patients. If this is good enough for medics and staff in some trusts, then it is good enough for all.
The SoR supports members who refuse to carry out examinations if they feel unsafe to do so.

Please contact your local rep or Regional Officer as a matter of urgency if this applies to you.

See Society tells Matt Hancock staff "hugely frustrated and angry" about PPE and Covid-19 testing.

What about vulnerable patients?

A risk assessment must be done on vulnerable patients, which includes all radiotherapy patients and the appropriate PPE worn.

The trust has a duty of care towards the patient, as well as the staff.

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