This week the UK Health Security Agency and NHS England have published updated guidance to support healthcare settings as we head into the winter months. This new broadened guidance outlines the infection prevention and control (IPC) principles required to prevent transmission of Covid-19 and other respiratory viruses and minimise disruption to health and care services.
Covid-19 specific care pathways
The main changes include removal of the three Covid-19 specific care pathways (high, medium and low). This has been simplified to differentiation based on whether a patient has respiratory symptoms or not. There has been addition of a section on the criteria to be applied within the ‘hierarchy of controls’ to further support organisations/services with maximum workplace risk mitigation.
Use of face masks
The recommendation for universal use of face masks for staff and face masks/coverings for all patients/visitors remains an IPC measure within health and care settings over the winter period. This is likely to be until at least March/April 2022.
There is a recommendation that physical distancing should be at least one metre, increasing whenever feasible to two metres across all health and care settings. Physical distancing should remain at two metres where patients with suspected or confirmed respiratory infection are being cared for.
There have been several updates in recommendations for PPE,which should hugely reduce the volume of single-use plastic entering primary care waste.
- Gloves are not an alternative to hand hygiene and are not required unless exposure to blood and/or other body fluids, non-intact skin or mucous membranes is anticipated.
- Disposable plastic aprons must be worn to protect staff uniform or clothes when providing direct care for patients with suspected or confirmed respiratory infection.
- Disposable plastic aprons are no longer required for face-to-face appointments with asymptomatic patients.
It is recommended that screening, triaging and testing for SARS-CoV-2 continues over the winter period.
Read the full guidance on GOV.UK, see below. The NEL CSU IPC team is offering refresher training webinars monthly; the next dates are 15 December and 26 January, see below.