Allied Health Professions Federation calls for crucial PPE for AHPs and social care staff
Steve Jamieson, Chair of the Allied Health Professions Federation (AHPF), has written a letter to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care requesting greater clarity about the ongoing situation regarding healthcare workers and their access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
The letter is written on behalf of the AHPF, an organisation, which is made up of 12 professional bodies representing Allied Health Professionals (AHPs), designed to ensure the AHP workforce is positioned to improve the health and well-being of the population.
The 12 organisations which make up the AHPF are the: British Association for Music Therapy (BAMT), British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT), British Association of Dramatherapists (BADth), British Dietetic Association (BDA), British Association of Prosthetists and Orthotists (BAPO), British and Irish Orthoptic Society (BIOS), Royal College of Occupational Therapists (RCOT), Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP), College of Paramedics (CoP), College of Podiatry (CoP), Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT), and Society and College of Radiographers (SCoR).
Last week, NHS England announced that millions more items of PPE would be delivered to frontline staff for NHS services throughout England in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. While the announcement says that dedicated frontline NHS and social care staff will receive the essential PPE kits, it does not specify which staff members will get the equipment.
In response to this, the Allied Health Professions Federation is asking who is being prioritised for access to PPE, stating that many AHPs are overlooked in receiving PPE, even though they work on the frontline.
The letter calls for Matt Hancock to provide greater clarity about which healthcare workers will have access to vital PPE.
RCOT Chief Executive Julia Scott said: “It is a priority for all of us to keep our frontline NHS and social care staff safe and healthy throughout this crisis and maximise the protection for all of them as they do important life-saving work. However, there have been mixed messages from the Government when it comes to providing PPE to frontline NHS staff.
“This element of the workforce includes occupational therapists, paramedics, dieticians, physiotherapists, radiographers, podiatrists and a wide range of other key allied health professionals. Therefore, we are asking for clarity on the access they all have to PPE, as we have heard from many members who are concerned about the safety of the equipment they have been provided with, or a lack of any available equipment.
“Furthermore, we have many occupational therapists working in social care. This is a significant concern for us as they are working in the heart of communities, visiting people’s homes to ensure their safety and well-being on a daily basis. It is only right that they are also prioritised for access to this vital protective equipment.”
Read the letter in full below:
Dear Secretary of State
PPE for AHP frontline staff
On behalf of The Allied Health Professions Federation (AHPF), I am writing to welcome the Coronavirus Bill and its key aim to; “Increase the available Health & Social Care Workforce”. We are confident that many AHPs will be ready to assist the NHS once again as they are potentially recalled and we have already heard from many who plan to do so.
However, as with other professions, we do have concerns about accessibility to Personal Protective Equipment for NHS Frontline staff. Many of the Allied Health Professions, alongside Doctors and Nurses will be there at the forefront, supporting and helping patients manage and recover from COVID-19. But there have been a number of mixed messages from Government about the supply available and the distribution of the equipment to those that most need it. Would you please confirm that all NHS Frontline staff will be able to access this vital equipment and that they will be adequately equipped?
In particular there seems to be some confusion about which AHPs can receive these and under which circumstances. For example, Speech and Language Therapists undertake assessments, such as a dysphagia assessment (checking a person’s swallow function to see if they can eat and drink safely), that may involve their patient coughing, with the significant potential risk of infection to the therapists if they do not have personal protective equipment and their patient has COVID19. It is also crucial to have the appropriate type of PPE including FFP3 masks for aerosol generating procedures (AGP) undertaken by respiratory physiotherapists. It is critical that Trusts’ infection prevention and control teams consider the range of AHP assessments and interventions that may expose staff to risk, including when caring for COVID-19 suspected cases.
AHPS are also working in community settings or in peoples’ homes ensuring successful discharge from hospital, rehabilitation and community based rapid response services. The distribution and supply of PPE needs to include this workforce alongside GPs and practice or community nurses.
Secondly, the announcement and aim to test 25,000 people a day for COVID-19 was welcome, as identifying those that currently have the virus, as well as those that have already had it is key when combating this virus. But NHS Staff who are risking their own health to support the wider public need to know if they can safely carry out their duties. Therefore, we are calling for all NHS Frontline staff, including AHPs to be prioritised for COVID-19 testing, particularly as we have concerns about the mixed messages from government about this issue.
Allied Health Professions Federation