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COVID-19: many nurses still under pressure to work without PPE, survey finds

RCN poll comes as trade unions launch plan to ensure staff safety when NHS services restart


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Nursing staff in the UK remain under pressure to work without personal protective equipment (PPE), an RCN survey has revealed.

Of the 5,023 college members who responded, 34% said they were still expected to treat patients with confirmed or potential COVID-19 without the use of PPE.

The survey, carried out online between 7-11 May, also found that:

  • 44% of respondents said they were being asked to reuse single-use equipment.
  • 58% said they had raised PPE concerns, but more than a quarter (27%) of this group reported that these concerns had not been addressed.

RCN says why survey results are ‘particularly concerning’ 


Dame Donna Kinnair

RCN general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said the college continues to hear from nursing staff who say they are not being adequately protected.

‘This is particularly concerning, especially if the country faces the threat of a second wave,’ she said.

Professor Kinnair added that the results of the survey contradict the assurances the college has received from UK governments that PPE is being delivered to all staff who need it.

‘This survey – and the direct contact I have with members – shows that this is not the experience on the ground in hospitals, or in care homes,’ she said.

Blueprint for Return plan aims to keep staff safe

The RCN’s survey results came as the college and 15 other NHS trade unions released a nine-point Blueprint for Return plan for restarting NHS services that were reduced or stopped during lockdown in a way that ensures staff safety.

The nine-point plan asks UK governments and employers to:

  • Guarantee enough and suitable PPE.
  • Ensure risk assessments are carried out.
  • Give staff and patient unlimited access to testing.
  • Pay staff for overtime.
  • Ensure working time regulations are adhered to.
  • Support safe staffing levels.
  • Ensure staff know how to access mental health support.
  • Facilitate and support access to childcare.
  • Ensure that future pay conversations take into account the contribution of NHS staff during the pandemic.

The Scottish Government responded to the RCN survey by saying the country has enough of all forms of PPE for current demand levels.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said its PPE supplies were stable and that it had sufficient stocks of the most under-pressure items: fluid-resistant gowns and masks.

The English and Northern Ireland governments were contacted for comment.


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