Physiotherapy staff delivering urgent respiratory care to patients with COVID-19 are being put at ‘unacceptable risk’ through inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE), governments in all four UK countries have been told.
Respiratory physiotherapy staff work in close contact with COVID-19 patients in intensive care and other settings, providing treatment to clear sputum from their chests.
This exposes them to viral loads on a regular basis yet many report being encouraged to see patients without access to the appropriate level of PPE.
While individual health trusts and boards have taken action to protect their staff, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy is frustrated that extensive discussions with national bodies has failed to deliver a consistent standard.
CSP members have even been threatened with disciplinary action if they raise concerns about the shortages.
The CSP has written to health ministers to demand action is taken to protect physiotherapy staff delivering these essential services.
An unacceptable risk
Prof Karen Middleton, chief executive of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, said: ‘Physiotherapy staff are playing a critical role in treating patients with COVID-19 but are facing an unacceptable risk through a lack of appropriate protection.
‘These concerns have been ignored for too long by governments across the UK so we are now demanding that action is taken to protect not only our members, but the NHS as well.
‘Our members deliver services that are critical in the fight against COVID-19 and must be kept safe and well to continue working.
‘We have a moral obligation to protect staff working in those situations and a duty to the country to keep our NHS strong in the face of this unprecedented crisis.
‘Ministers must step up and deliver appropriate protection for staff to deliver on those dual responsibilities.’
Anything less than full PPE is unacceptable
The letter to ministers explains that CSP members working within arm’s length of patients that are confirmed as having or suspected of having COVID-19 and providing treatment to clear sputum from their chest must be provided with full PPE which includes an FFP 3 mask, eye protection, gown and gloves.
Anything less is unacceptable given the viral loading physiotherapists will be exposed to on a regular basis, the letter adds.
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