UK COVID-19 Daily: new PPE guidance issued

  • Tim Locke, Medscape.com

  • UK Medical News
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These are the UK coronavirus stories you need to know about Thursday.

New PPE Guidance Issued

New UK guidance on the use of PPE was announced on Thursday by Public Health England. Changes include:

  • Enhanced PPE recommendations in some health and social care settings

  • Individual and organisational PPE risk assessments 

  • Single sessional (extended) use of some PPE items and re-usable PPE 

  • Some patients suspected of having COVID-19 should wear masks if appropriate

Health and Social Care Secretary for England, Matt Hancock, was back on duty at the daily Downing Street briefing. He'd been in self-isolation for a week after testing positive for COVID-19. "I'll stop at nothing to make sure that frontline staff have the right equipment, so that they're safe and can have the confidence they need to do their jobs," he said. 

He continued: "These standards are amongst the highest in the world, and in line with the recommendations of the World Health Organisation."

Beyond PPE, Mr Hancock was asked about drug and other supplies: "We are highly vigilant, we are currently confident that we have the supplies of medicines that are needed," he said 

Prof Stephen Powis, national medical director of NHS England, was asked about one London hospital recently issuing a safety alert about low supplies of oxygen: "We have been working for weeks on the oxygen supply chain, so that includes working with suppliers to ensure that increased amounts of oxygen can be delivered If required, but also with all our hospitals to understand their capacity for using more oxygen than they usually would," he said. 

Testing

Earlier, the former Medical Director for Public Health England, Prof Paul Cosford, said he felt "frustrated" at the lack of progress in testing frontline NHS and social care staff for COVID-19.

"I quite understand why people are yearning for the certainty that good testing provides. I get it," Mr Hancock said.

He was asked why he was tested when most NHS staff with symptoms aren't: "There's a clear protocol that's been set out by the Chief Medical Officer for who should get tests, and the decision was that those who are in decision making, senior decision making, positions, as well as those who are in the critical jobs on the front line need to get those tests. So, for instance, I think it's quite right that the Prime Minister was tested, and I was tested."

He explained that patients had been prioritised over staff for testing and that there were problems with some new tests: "In one case, a test that I'm being urged to buy missed 3 out of 4 positive cases of coronavirus. That means, in three-quarters of cases that test would have given the false comfort of sending someone with coronavirus back on the wards. Approving tests that don't work is dangerous. And I will not do it."

He confirmed England's target of 25,000 swab tests a day by the middle of the month, but across all new and existing testing programmes: "I am now setting the goal of 100,000 tests per day by the end of this month."

Part of this plan involved "partnerships with universities, research institutes, and companies, like Amazon and Boots, to build from scratch, a network of new labs and testing sites across the country."

So far more than 5000 NHS workers have been tested across five new testing sites, he said.

"I can give that firm commitment that all the frontline NHS staff who need tests will get them by the end of this month," he said. 

He announced capacity for 3500 antibody tests a week, operated by PHE at Porton Down: "Robust population surveillance programmes are essential to understanding the rate of infection, and how the virus is spreading across the country,” Mr Hancock said.

Prof John Newton, director of health improvement, Public Health England, has been appointed to a new role to coordinate testing. He clarified when antibody testing needed to be done: "The test measures your immunity and the peak level of immunity is at 28 days. So if you want to tell somebody that they haven't been infected and they're not immune, you really have to do it then to be sure." 

He continued: "But the question of whether that immunity is enough to stop you being infected at all, or getting serious disease, is something that we need to discover as time goes on."

"Increasing the amount of tests is mission critical," Mr Hancock said, and: "Testing is critical to lifting the lockdown." 

Prof Powis was asked whether a second wave was anticipated: "A second wave is possible, but I think it's by no means inevitable." 

'Immunity certificates' are being considered for people who can prove they've recovered from COVID-19, Mr Hanock confirmed: "We are looking at an immunity certificate, how people who have had the disease, have got the antibodies, and therefore have immunity, can show that, and so get back as much as possible to normal life."

Deaths

UK hospital COVID-19 deaths rose by 569 on Thursday, taking the total to 2921.

Matt Hancock said: "The best scientific analysis is that the rate of infection has been doubling every 3 to 4 days."

Among the recent COVID-19 deaths was healthcare assistant Thomas Harvey from North East London NHS Foundation Trust. 

Mr Hancock said: "We've lost colleagues too, doctors, nurses, mental health professionals, they've paid the ultimate price for their service, working to care for others."

He continued: "Many of those who've died, who are from the NHS, were people who came to this country to make a difference. And they did. And they've given their lives in sacrifice, and we salute them." 

Also announced on Thursday was the death of comedian Eddie Large, 78, from the duo Little and Large. He contracted COVID-19 in the hospital where he was being treated for heart failure.

More Doctors Needed

The General Medical Council (GMC) is ready to grant temporary registration to more doctors who left the profession in recent years. Around 15,000 who left in the past 3 years have already been invited. Now the net is being widened to another 12,000 doctors with a UK address who are GMC registered, but who do not currently hold a licence to practise, plus nearly 6800 doctors with a UK address who gave up their registration between 3 and 6 years ago (2014–17).

In a statement, Una Lane, GMC director of registration and revalidation, said: "We know from the response to the first group temporarily registered last week that many will be keen to help, but we also understand that many will have questions and concerns. Temporary registration allows doctors to work in the NHS, but it would be up to each individual whether or not they would wish to do so and in what capacity."

More News in Brief
  • The craft beer company BrewDog turned to making hand sanitiser to meet shortages and planned to give it away to charities and hospitals. However, the Guardian reported that Scottish hospitals turned down the 'Punk Sanitiser' because it was only 68% alcohol and didn't meet medical standards.

  • The new NHS Nightingale Hospital at London's ExCel Centre has warned of a fake Facebook page asking people to send in rainbow pictures. It tweeted: "We love that so many of you have shared your amazing rainbow pictures, but please don’t send them in the post."

  • The second Clap For Carers happens tonight at 8 pm. Mr Hancock described last week's event as "a magical moment".

Adapted from Medscape UK.