The Nursing and Midwifery Council has assured it will ‘consider context’ if nurses, midwives and nursing associates refuse to work because of a lack of personal protective equipment.
It explained in a statement: ‘[In these instances,] we would consider the context of the current pandemic, including the risks that the individual registrant was exposed to and how they exercise and recorded their professional judgement in line with the Code.’
The regulator stressed its code for good practice states health professionals must take their personal safety and the safety of others into account while working.
‘So you shouldn’t feel that when making decisions, you have to place yourself or others at risk, or that you need to make these decisions on your own,’ it added.
Staff members should first raise concerns about the use of availability of PPE with their manager, as set out in the Code, it said.
Other factors to consider include:
· whether treatment can be delayed or provided differently (for example, remotely)
· the availability of different levels of PPE that may offer sufficient protection to you and others in particular care activities
· whether some members of the wider team are at a higher risk of infection than others
· whether different care and treatment decisions might be appropriate to minimise the risk of transmission in accordance with local and national advice
· taking account of all the options available, what course of action is likely to result in the least harm in the circumstances, taking into account your own safety, the safety of others and the people in your care.
Following the Code might mean that health professionals decide they need to refuse to provide care or treatment because it is not safe to do so, it concluded.
It also urged professionals to record their decisions around handling safety concerns including descriptions of using their own professional judgement, the role of other members of the team in the decision and the outcome.
This advice follows the approach set out in the NMC’s joint regulatory statement, released last month, to take ‘challenging circumstances’ into account when investigating coronavirus-related complaints.
The statement also comes after the Royal College of Nursing said earlier this week that nurses without appropriate personal equipment can refuse to treat patients if they have ‘exhausted all other measures’.