Hundreds of medical professionals have spoken out in favor of higher quality personal protective equipment (PPE) amid growing concerns about airborne coronavirus transmission.
In an open letter to political leaders, doctors, nurses and counselors say healthcare workers in general wards are about twice as likely to get Covid-19 than intensive care workers who have the best equipment.
They suggest this is due to increased aerosol protection from higher quality PPE and better ventilation in intensive care units.
The Royal College of Nursing supported the appeal and called for an immediate review of the existing PPE guidelines and ventilation in hospitals.
It is not yet known how much aerosol virus transmission takes place in the air.
The World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines focus on the virus spreading mainly through droplets from the nose or mouth caused by coughing, sneezing and speaking. However, it has been recognized that Covid-19 could be spread through particles in the air.
Current Public Health England (PHE) guidelines on the type of PPE used focus on whether a process is classified as “aerosol generating” or “non-aerosol generating”.
However, the letter states: “This is no longer compatible with what we now know.”
The group making the appeal is Fresh Air NHS, which describes itself as “a frontline group of health workers and supporters who recognize the importance of SARS Co-V 2 in the air”.
All employees working with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 patients should have access to a more advanced FFP3 mask that includes an air filter, PPE policy review, and hospitals to maximize natural ventilation.
The letter reads: “We ask that these recommendations be implemented across the UK as soon as possible. It will take time for mass vaccination and its impact on transmission rates to take effect.
“It is imperative, therefore, to maximize the science-based preventive measures for aerosol / air transmission, in addition to the usual health care precautions for droplets.”
Dame Donna Kinnair, Executive Director of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said: “Nursing staff and all health professionals urgently need assurances from government ministers and academics that they are adequately prepared for the new variant through both PPE and safety procedures in their health insurance workplaces are protected.
“You must immediately indicate whether the existing PPE guidelines are appropriate for the new variant.”
She demanded that employees working with suspected or confirmed Covid-19 cases should receive a higher-level PPE and called for a review of “the effectiveness of ventilation in health and care buildings”.