The Government’s Covid-19 infection control guidelines are ‘fundamentally flawed’ and need replacing, a report commissioned by the RCN has found.
The publication, written by nursing academics from London’s City University, said the recommendations are based on ‘outdated’ evidence that does not consider airborne infection of Covid-19, despite growing evidence of it as a common means of transmission.
It also questioned why higher-level PPE is only advised in high-risk settings such as intensive care. The RCN has called for all nursing staff to be given a higher level of PPE, while the GMB trade union has argued the same for care home staff in a blog for Nursing in Practice.
Airborne transmission is where tiny droplets of saliva can remain suspended in the air from people talking, calling out or coughing, which can be a particular problem in poorly ventilated rooms, research such as that published in the journal Indoor Air has stated.
The RCN report also found the infection control guidelines miss detail on the importance of ventilation.
Authors from City University, professor Dinah Gould and Dr Edward Purssell, also wrote: ‘[The guidance and the evidence on which it is based] still identify droplet spread and hands as the major route, based on early advice from the World Health Organization (WHO).
‘Updated evidence indicates that aerosol spread is much more significant and the original advice from the WHO has been superseded. The UK guidelines are still based on this outdated evidence, however. They urgently need thorough revision and replacing.’
The RCN report, which analysed a literature review underpinning the infection control guidelines, found the review met just four of the 18 criteria the experts deemed essential, based on WHO evidence.
Professor Gould and Dr Purssell concluded the research used in the guidelines, jointly released by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), NHS England and national public health bodies, provided only a ‘superficial account’ of the available Covid-19 evidence.
This has caused concern for nursing staff, especially with the emergence of new highly infectious Covid-19 variants.
A community nurse who works for a trust in England, who has not been named, told the RCN: ‘I’m at my wits’ end. I’ve had Covid-19 before and really don’t want to get it again.’
RCN chief executive Dame Donna Kinnair said: ‘The report and its findings must launch an official review and not be swept under the carpet as an inconvenience.
‘Health care workers need to know everything possible is being done to keep them protected. It is inadequate to say they have masks if they aren’t fit for purpose. Staff are scared for themselves and their families and left any longer it’ll turn to anger.’