COVID-19: NMC moves to reassure registrants over refusal to treat due to lack of PPE

Regulator tells nurses it will consider context of safety concerns in fitness to practise referrals

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Nurses referred to the regulator for refusing to treat patients because of inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE) should be reassured that context will be taken into account, the NMC said.

Such context would include weighing the risks to which the registrant was exposed and how they exercised their professional judgement in line with the Code, a new statement from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) makes clear.

It advises nurses to record any decisions taken in relation to PPE and safety concerns.

NMC chief executive Andrea Sutcliffe said she hoped the guidance would reassure nurses and help them to make the right individual decisions.

'We know the consistent and timely availability of appropriate PPE continues to be a significant challenge in health and social care across the UK,' she said.

'Understandably PPE [as an issue] is being raised with us by our registrants and their employers and is the focus of intense activity at a national level.'

In the event of inadequate PPE, these factors should be considered, the NMC states:

  • Can treatment be delayed or provided differently, for example, remotely?
  • Are there other PPE options available?
  • Are some members of the team at higher risk of infection than others?
  • Can different care and treatment decisions be carried out to minimise transmission?
  • Decisions should be based on the course of action likely to result in the least risk of harm.

The NMC statement follows the RCN’s announcement it may support members who refuse to treat patients due to a lack of PPE, in the last resort.

The British Medical Association today said some doctors have described how they are giving their gowns to nurses and healthcare assistants due to shortages.  

A leaked Public Health England document seen by the BBC revealed that the chief medical officers and chief nursing officers of the UK have discussed the idea of reusing PPE as a last resort.   

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