A Newcastle GP has raised concerns about inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers, particularly for those expected to go on home visits.
Dr Alison George who spoke to ITV News Tyne Tees on Tuesday, says that although we're all very aware that doctors, nurses and other health care staff working in intensive case units and accident and emergency departments are exposed to a high viral load, the risks to people in primary care have not been discussed enough.
Viral load relates to the number of viral particles being carried by an infected individual and shed into the environment.
Dr George says there are lots of risks associated with going into people's homes as well as care homes:
Whether that's in a house or in a care home and going to someone's bedroom, you're likely to come into contact with a high viral load. So from the door when you go in, up the staircase, the bedroom handle, bedside table. Anything you touch where the patient has been, is likely to be contaminated by viral particles.''
Dr George says the risk is that particles can get passed onto the the next person being visited:
Part of my worry is if we go into patients' houses in our own clothes or in scrubs, but with just a plastic apron, that we move, when we leave, the likely hood is that we have some other viral particles on our clothing. You then sit in the car and drive to the next patient and a new plastic apron will go on top, but our clothes would remain the same.''
Dr George would like to see primary care workers wearing gowns for home visits, which she says would protect not only those on the frontline, but their patients and families at home.
Because of Dr George's concerns about adequate PPE, she has decided to stop home visits:
I am choosing to work within general practice where we are doing mainly telephone and email consultations and also at hot sites around the city where we see patients with Covid-19, but in a healthcare setting. It is not quite the same as going into their own homes.''
Although they are not able to comment on individual cases, Public Health England said it would encourage any GP or health provider with concerns to contact them.
A spokesperson for Public Health England North East said:
Protecting our NHS and social care colleagues on the frontline is vitally important. The PPE recommendations in the recently published guidance are amongst the highest in the world and in line with what WHO recommends in circumstances and settings with the highest risk of transmission.
Public Health England guidance advises:
Any clinician working in a hospital, primary care or community care setting within two metres of a suspected or confirmed coronavirus COVID-19 patient should wear an apron, gloves, surgical mask and eye protection, based on the riskMore detail on what PPE to use in different clinical scenarios as well as community settings, such as care homes and caring for individuals in their own homes.
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