Coronavirus: new guidance aims to ‘fully prepare’ NHS staff to treat patients

Advice from NHS Staff Council includes rest breaks and ‘fit testing’ face masks

Transmission electron microscope view of coronavirus. Picture: SPL

Staff treating patients with suspected or confirmed coronavirus should take adequate rest breaks to avoid fatigue that could increase the risk of exposure, according to new guidance.

The advice has been published by the NHS Staff Council, which comprises health service employers and unions. It has been issued to NHS trusts in the UK to ensure their staff are ‘fully prepared’ to care of people with coronavirus, the latest strain of which is known as Covid-19.

Preparing for an evolving situation

Although suspected or confirmed cases of Covid-19 are currently being managed in specialist units, the guidance says this is ‘likely to change as the situation evolves’ so the NHS should ensure it is ready to adapt to changing circumstances.

Preparations should include:

  • Ensuring steps are taken to mitigate safety risks if staff are moved from other clinical areas to treat patients with coronavirus.
  • Providing a programme for ‘fit testing’ face masks.  
  • If staff are required to self-isolate, pay arrangements during their absence should be clear.

‘Sensible contingency plans’ aim to offer reassurance

Chair of the health unions on the NHS Staff Council, and Unison head of health, Sara Gorton, said: ‘These sensible contingency plans will help reassure staff, patients and the public that the NHS is fully prepared for any eventuality.’

‘Encouraging individuals to take everyday precautions is essential. But so is the need not to panic or feel unduly alarmed. Being fully prepared now could make the world of difference later.’

Guidance on supporting mental health

The World Health Organization (WHO) said it will issue guidance this week on supporting the mental health of staff caring for people with coronavirus.

Two more patients have tested positive for coronavirus in England, bringing the total number of cases in the UK to 15.

NHS trust’s staff told to shave facial hair

University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust has sent an email to its staff, which requests those with facial hair to shave it off to allow face masks to fit and limit the spread of coronavirus.

The trust’s medical director Derek Sandeman attached an image with 36 different types of facial hair, showing which ones are acceptable and which are not, based on whether they fit inside a mask.

However, staff with facial hair for religious or cultural reasons are exempt.

In other news