Getting help with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

UNISON knows that some staff groups may have less employee voice within an organisation. This means they may not feel able to raise concerns with their employer about Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

UNISON believes everyone should be listened to and assessed for their exposure risk based on the latest guidance. We also believe that the right levels of PPE in quality and quantity should be available to staff for the work they are being asked to do, based on an up-to-date risk assessment.

Gaps in PPE provision
There may be occasions where staff are being expected to treat patients and are not provided with the suitable level of PPE as determined by their local risk assessment based on the national guidance.

Or there may be occasions where staff are undertaking a procedure which carries a risk to them which is beyond the scope of the local risk assessment completed by their manager.

There may also be times when the type of patients being cared for or procedures being conducted in a clinical area have changed but the level of PPE provided has not been reassessed.

In these cases the wording below can be used by a UNISON member, collectively by UNISON members, or by UNISON branches to raise concerns.

Getting the basics right
All staff, patients and visitors need to follow the basic Infection Prevention Control (IPC) measures such as social distancing and transmission based precautions (contact, droplet and airborne) such as handwashing, surface wiping and face coverings. These can easily be overlooked or people can become fatigued and forget. This IPC quick reference guide is a helpful and easily accessible reminder of the basics.

We know that many NHS sites and buildings present unique challenges to implementing this guidance. Whether it is staff rooms that are too small or corridors where people cannot socially distance, proactive management must take place and any concerns with non-compliance addressed.

The National Guidance
A first step would be to visit the government website and check which of the 3 COVID-19 pathways are relevant to the work being done. Some staff may need to move between these pathways and therefore change levels of PPE accordingly. The 3 COVID-19 pathways are:

  • High risk
    This includes patients/individuals who are confirmed COVID-19 positive by a SARS-CoV-2 PCR test or are symptomatic and suspected to have COVID-19 (awaiting result)
  • Medium risk
    This includes patients/individuals who are waiting for their SARS-CoV-2 PCR test result and who have no symptoms of COVID-19 and individuals who are asymptomatic with a COVID-19 contact/exposure identified
  • Low risk
    This includes patients/individuals who have been triaged/tested (negative)/clinically assessed with no symptoms or known recent COVID-19 contact/exposure

Local risk assessment
The next step is to ask to see the risk assessment for you and your colleagues. This should be available to you and you should be able to see the measures that you and others need to take to be safe doing your job.

Raising a concern
Your Trust may already have a process in place to raise concerns. If not, you should raise them with your line manager and/or Infection Prevention Lead. This template letter provides wording that can be used based on the circumstances involved. If this is unsuccessful you should talk to your UNISON branch about raising a grievance to get your concerns heard.