Urgent need for clear communications on NHS infection control measures

14 July 2021

NHS Providers is calling for urgent, clear, public communication of a single national approach on NHS infection control measures such as wearing of masks, social distancing and hand-washing to provide clarity for staff, patients and the public.

The membership organisation for every NHS hospital, mental health, community and ambulance service in England says given the widely publicised changes due next Monday, including the transfer of responsibility for setting rules on these issues to individual organisations, it is vital that there is a single, uniform NHS approach, avoiding any room for confusion and this needs clear, rapid, communication.

The call follows media stories this morning about the infection control approaches individual public transport providers will be adopting from next Monday.

NHS Providers has also urged the government and national NHS leaders to also state unequivocally that there will be a zero tolerance approach to breaking the rules or abuse of NHS staff trying to enforce them.

The chief executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, said:

"The risk of catching COVID-19 in healthcare settings is significant, particularly with a delta variant that is 60% more infectious than the previously dominant alpha variant. That's why trusts have worked so hard to ensure appropriate infection control which is just as important as it ever was. Particularly as the numbers of COVID-19 admissions, driven by the current surge in infections, increases.

"Frontline NHS care is provided by 213 different acute, community, ambulance and mental health trusts, thousands of different GP surgeries and many other providers.

It's vital that there is a single, uniform, approach across all these different healthcare settings so there is no room for confusion.

Chris Hopson    Chief Executive

"It's vital that there is a single, uniform, approach across all these different healthcare settings so there is no room for confusion.

"Trust leaders are therefore calling on the government and national public health and NHS leaders to clearly communicate what the NHS approach to infection control is, so every member of the public and NHS staff knows where they stand.

"Trusts have indicated that, to keep patients safe, many of whom are clinically vulnerable, as well as visitors and staff, they must continue to employ measures such as social distancing, mask wearing and restrictions on visiting.

"A significant number of trust leaders have contacted us this week to say they are also seeing more confrontations with a small number of very determined members of the public who refuse to follow the guidance.

"It's therefore also vital that government and national NHS leaders help to manage expectations and state there will be zero tolerance of any member of the public failing to follow the rules or abusing NHS staff trying to enforce them.

"Given everything they have been through over the last 16 months, we must support NHS staff who are trying to protect the safety of their patients and fellow members of staff.

"It is vital that Government and national public health and NHS leaders communicate clearly and widely as soon as possible given the widely publicised changes due next Monday."

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