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COVID-19: emergency departments ‘not fit for purpose’

Royal College of Emergency Medicine survey of emergency department clinicians reveals concerns over lack of isolation facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic

Picture of an isolation room in a hospital
Picture: iStock

Many emergency departments (EDs) across the UK are ‘not fit for purpose’ in tackling COVID-19, says RCN Emergency Care Association chair David Smith.

Mr Smith was commenting on the results of a survey of ED clinicians showing they do not believe their EDs have enough isolation facilities to cope with the pandemic.

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) surveyed its 9,500 members across the UK and obtained responses from 1,167 emergency care clinicians. The results showed 69% said their EDs do not have negative pressure rooms and 72% said they do not have enough side rooms. Negative pressure isolation rooms are used to prevent airborne diseases from spreading.

Worries over lack of PPE and mental health

The survey, carried out between 22 May and 7 June, also reveals that:

  • One third of respondents reported not having enough personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • One third said they had to reuse PPE.
  • More than half felt their mental health had worsened because of the pandemic.

Mr Smith said: ‘It is going to be difficult to separate COVID-19 and non-COVID patients. There needs to be an action plan on how not to contaminate a clean area with COVID-19.’

He said the survey also highlighted the need to address the mental health needs of the workforce.

Commenting on PPE concerns, RCEM president Katherine Henderson said: ‘We are pleased that many of the early supply issues seem to have been resolved, but staff should never have been put in a situation where they were forced to reuse disposable PPE.’

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RCEM COVID-19 Survey 2020


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