Half of nursing staff under pressure to work without PPE, reveals RCN

Staff are being asked to re-use items of personal protective equipment (PPE) that are marked ‘single use’ by manufacturers.

Matt Bodell
18 April 2020
Car testing PPE

Public Health England (PHE) has made policy changes amid what it calls an “acute shortage”.

Half of nursing staff admit to feeling under pressure to carry out their work without the levels of protection set out in official guidance, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has revealed.


A survey undertaken by the RCN reveals that over half (51%) of nursing staff working in high-risk areas have been asked to re-use items of personal protective equipment (PPE) that are marked ‘single use’ by manufacturers.

High-risk environments include intensive care and high dependency units – where aerosol-generating procedures (AGPs) are undertaken almost routinely and staff are deemed most at risk.

Of those treating COVID-19 patients elsewhere, over a third (39%) said they were being asked to re-use this equipment.

The news comes only hours after Public Health England (PHE) made policy changes enabling the re-use of the historically single-use gowns, amid what it calls an “acute shortage”.


Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “These figures unmask the gut-wrenching shortages nursing staff are dealing with in all health care settings. It is little wonder they are in such fear for their own safety and that of their patients.

“This crisis is taking the lives of nursing staff, and their colleagues feel they’ve been left exposed. All decision makers involved here need to get an urgent grip on the situation. Nursing staff just want to do their jobs – they must be given protection in order to do so.”

The College says it will share the survey results with associated government agencies and regulators, including the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

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