In February the College called on the PM to address the “inadequate” protection of nursing staff.
Over a year into the Coronavirus pandemic nursing staff are still calling for improved personal protective equipment (PPE).
UK guidance still only recommends the use of higher grade FFP3 masks, which can block aerosols, for a limited range of procedures deemed aerosol-generating.
Contrary to these recommendations, a recent study concluded that coughing alone was “a potent generator of aerosols” and recommended that UK PPE guidance be urgently updated.
Despite this, it still remains the case that the majority of NHS staff caring for either suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 cases wear nothing more than a surgical face mask, gloves, and a thin plastic apron.
In stark contrast, FFP3 masks and gowns are being used more widely by health care workers in other countries.
Rose Gallagher, RCN Professional Lead for Infection Prevention and Control, says the UK is now lagging significantly behind other countries in its approach to PPE and infection control.
She said: “We know that health care worker deaths have been reduced in other countries where there has been a strong commitment to providing higher levels of PPE.
“The UK has much to learn about transmission of COVID-19 within our hospitals and risks from this airborne infection.
“We must act now to improve ventilation and provide adequate PPE in all care settings as standard, if required, so as to not to add to the sobering statistics of hundreds of health care professionals who have sadly have died due to COVID-19.”
The RCN is also warning against sole reliance on the vaccination programme.
“Despite current success in reducing infections in the general population, not all staff have been vaccinated and no vaccine is 100% effective,” Rose added. “The threat of new variants is very real, and a third wave is predicted, so we must not assume the pandemic is behind us.”