The RCN has called for all healthcare workers including nurses to be provided with FFP3 masks when working with people who have or are potentially infected with Covid-19.
In a position statement published today, the nursing body noted the airborne route of transmission of the virus ‘poses a significant risk’ to anyone working within 2m of a person with Covid-19.
It pinpointed healthcare workers – such as a community nurses – who visit people’s own homes as at ‘particular risk’, alongside those working in A&E or urgent care.
The RCN statement outlined concerns that the ‘rapidly escalating spread’ of the Omicron variant is exacerbating workforce absences to an ‘unprecedented level’, which is risking both patient safety and the mental and physical health of healthcare workers.
This comes after the BMA said general practice clinicians should use FFP2 masks ‘as a default’ when seeing patients, in a notice this week shared by Lancashire and Cumbria LMCs and Cleveland LMC.
It said: ‘In this case, and in the absence of readily available fit testing, there is a growing consensus to use non fit tested FFP2 masks as a default when seeing patients. A well-fitting FFP2 with a decent seal will provide better protection than a [fluid-resistant surgical mask]’.
The Department of Health and Social Care said last month that primary care providers can access FFP3 if they have been assessed as needing it through a local risk assessment, according to the general practitioners committee (GPC) England.
GPC England has ‘called on NHSEI to make available or reimburse associated costs for use of FFP2/3 masks’ and has ‘written to NHSEI asking for provision of FFP2 as a default for all practices’, it added.
Current infection prevention and control (IPC) Government guidance still recommends ‘face coverings or surgical masks (Type II or IIR) to prevent the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory infectious agents in health and care settings’ for ‘all staff, patients and visitors’.