This site is intended for health professionals only


Nurses seek advice on refusing to treat because of inadequate PPE



The Royal College of Nursing helpline has received over 100 phone calls and emails from nurses asking for guidance over refusing to treat patients because of a lack of adequate personal protective equipment, it has revealed.

The Royal College of Nursing helpline has received over 100 phone calls and emails from nurses asking for guidance over refusing to treat patients because of a lack of adequate personal protective equipment, it has revealed.

The RCN last month urged nurses without adequate PPE to consider delaying treatment, using alternative practices and refusing to work if ‘escalation steps’, such as consulting a line manager and documenting concerns, do not resolve the situation. 

Since then, it has received 101 calls to its helpline from nurses seeking advice on refusing to work if they do not have enough PPE.

An RCN said spokesperson said: ‘No nursing staff should be put in the position where they feel their safety will be at risk if they provide care for a patient with Covid-19, whether that’s because they don’t have adequate PPE, are in a high risk group, or for any other reason.

‘However, we know that worryingly, there are occasions when staff are being put in this situation, and therefore [we have] recently issued guidance advising members to escalate concerns to their manager in the first instance, and, if necessary, to their RCN rep.’

The spokesperson said that around 70% of all contact with the RCN Direct advice centre about refusal to treat relate to PPE. 

‘We will continue to fight until all staff who need it have enough PPE of the right standard,’ they added.

Last month, the RCN hit back at ‘unacceptable’ PPE guidance from Public Health England that said clinicians could reuse fluid repellent surgical face masks if they have elastic ear hooks.

This also comes after an RCN survey released last month revealed that half of nursing staff in ‘high-risk environments’, such as where there are Covid-19 patients, are working without adequate PPE during the coronavirus outbreak.