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PHE downgrades PPE requirements for GPs administering flu jabs

GPs do not need single-use PPE such as gloves and aprons when working in vaccination clinics, according to new guidance from Public Health England (PHE).

Earlier this month, NHS England said it was in discussions with PHE about potential changes to PPE requirements during flu clinics, suggesting requirements could be downgraded.

The previous guidance on immunisations during the Covid-19 pandemic said gloves and aprons had to be changed after every patient, while masks and visors could be worn for a whole session.

But the new guidance, published last week, said that single-use PPE items are only needed where staff are likely to be exposed to body fluids or broken skin.

It added that practice staff delivering vaccinations should wear a face mask for the whole session and use hand sanitiser in between in each patient. 

The document said: ‘In some clinical outpatient settings, such as vaccination/injection clinics, where contact with individuals is minimal, the need for single-use PPE items for each encounter, for example, gloves and aprons is not necessary. 

‘Gloves and aprons are recommended when there is (anticipated) exposure to blood/body fluids or non-intact skin. Staff administering vaccinations/injections must apply hand hygiene between patients and wear a sessional facemask.’

The guidance also reiterated that GPs, all clinical and non-clinical staff as well as patients should wear a face mask in practices if they are not ‘Covid secure’.

Dr Fay Wilson, the GP in charge of Birmingham out-of-hours provider Badger, told Pulse the new guidance is ‘just about saving money’.

She said: ‘Someone has just suddenly realised that if we’re going to vaccinate half of the population against flu, that means we’re going to have to have 30 million pairs of gloves.’

‘I’ve seen people with hand gel, quick squirt, quick rub and that’s it. It’s not the same as changing your gloves. 

‘You might as well wear a clove of garlic around your neck.’

And Dr Wilson added that proper handwashing between each patient will take even longer than changing gloves.

She said: ‘To be honest, if they can wash their hands [thoroughly enough], they’ve got time to put their gloves on.’

Meanwhile, Dr Wilson added that there is ‘plenty’ of PPE but it is just ‘in the wrong place’.

She said: ‘We have no problem at all if we’re offering cash for PPE on Amazon, but if we’re trying to order it through the NHS standard routes, it just doesn’t turn up.

‘We are utterly determined to be well-protected, even if we have to pay for it.’

Dr Rob Caudwell, chair and clinical director of NHS Southport and Formby CCG, told Pulse the change is a ‘welcome development’ that should help GPs run ‘logistically difficult flu clinics’.

‘However, I would like to see the evidence and rationale for the position taken by PHE, as I need to be able to assure myself that this has been taken on best available scientific evidence and not for reasons of political expediency’, he added.

It comes as GP practices were last week told to stop using certain PPE gowns ‘immediately’ after batches were found to ‘not meet minimum standards for fluid resistance’.

Meanwhile, it was revealed last week that some CCGs are encouraging trusts to administer flu vaccines this winter.

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