LAS UNISON Branch members have experienced many issues over the past few weeks relating to Coronavirus Covid-19 and the effects it is having on the London Ambulance Service.
Our reps have continually tried to address these issues as they have arisen, however the situation and guidance has fluctuated considerably over this time.
As such our Branch would like to issue the following guidance and advice to our fellow members during this extreme period of unprecedented disruption.
We firstly must make clear that the safety of our members is paramount. There have been changes to the level of PPE required in the guidance issued from Public Health England (PHE) and used in the LAS when treating patients. We have worked extensively to try and obtain a reference to the evidence base used for the PPE guidance however are yet to be able to get this.
We are informed by the LAS management that the changes are as a result of research undertaken over the past few weeks by PHE conducted in their own laboratory since the virus emerged in this country. This has recently concluded that the virus is transmitted, as other Coronavirus and the flu are, by large fluid droplets primarily from respiratory origin. The earlier precautions of full infectious PPE consisting of FFP3 mask, eye protection, double gloves and tyvex suit have since been deemed over precautious for dealing with possible or confirmed Covid-19 infected patients and now changed to FFP2 or surgical mask, disposable apron, double gloves and eye protection with the exception of patients requiring an aerosol generating procedure (AGP) who will still require treatment with full PPE.
LAS UNISON are continuing to try and obtain clear evidence to reference this change, we however advise our members to adhere to this guidance as a minimum. Should members encounter a patient in the described groups and not have sufficient or appropriate PPE as per the PHE and LAS current guidance, members should withdraw contact and seek the additional equipment or request a second crew sufficiently equipped to deal with the patient.
PPE for infectious patients stocks are low and the LAS continue to have logistical difficulties in distributing this equipment at the rate they are used. We are concerned this issue will worsen over the coming weeks so advise all members to do their utmost to assist in the distribution of this equipment and highlight any deficiencies as a matter of urgency. Our Branch will continue to do what we can to ensure the LAS have sufficient supplies and they are distributed well. We have today written to the LAS management with suggestions on how supplies could be distributed better and where deficiencies exist.
Please ensure you are familiar with the current LAS guidance on dealing with Covid-19 related calls and the associated PPE available on the pulse and on the JRCALC app. Updates to these will be made on a regular basis. It is also worth members familiarising themselves with the PHE guidance available here:
The page contains further links to specific guidance notably that for health care workers and the specific guidance for Ambulance Trusts.
In addition all members should take note of the Government guidance on social distancing to slow the spread of the virus available here:
Members should read this guidance carefully. Those with underlying health concerns should contact their line manager as soon as possible to discuss measure for their own safety.
We have further raised some specific questions to the LAS management today that we are awaiting answers to as follows:
- How are we dealing with our pregnant staff? Government guidance is to stringently follow the social distancing measures to reduce the social interaction between people. Given the relatively small number can we ask these staff to stay at home and perform any work that is possible from home. Certainly we are concerned with pregnant staff working on operational stations where there are potentially many more transmission vectors and those needing to use public transport to travel through town.
- Can we stop all further University student placements to prevent unnecessary risk of transmission.
- Are we adhering to the household guidance for those with possible coronavirus symptoms as per the government guidance “if you live with others and you or one of them have symptoms of coronavirus, then all household members must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in the house became ill”.
- Included in the Prime Minister’s press conference yesterday there was also an assurance that Covid-19 testing would be expanded to NHS workers, as such we have asked the LAS management what measures are being put in place and when.
UNISON National Ambulance Officer is meeting with NHS England on Thursday this week to explore this further along with questions on PPE provisions nationally.
Additionally see ThePulse Covid-19 web page for information from the LAS.
Please contact your local rep if you have concerns and keep a look out here, the national UNISON website and on our social media pages for further updates.
We also have a dedicated email address for Covid-19 related enquiries. firstname.lastname@example.org.