All NHS clinical and patient-facing staff are to receive refresher training in looking after patients with respiratory needs in the next fortnight.
NHS England told health service managers yesterday the training was required to prepare for ‘large numbers’ of patients requiring respiratory support due to coronavirus.
In a letter signed by NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens, it stressed that emerging data on Covid-19 patients suggested a significant proportion who are hospitalised require respiratory support – particularly mechanical ventilation and, to a lesser extent, non-invasive ventilation.
The letter said: ‘A far wider range of staff than usual will be involved in directly supporting patients with respiratory needs.
‘Refresher training for all clinical and patient-facing staff must therefore be provided within the next fortnight.’
It added that a cross-specialty clinical group, supported by the Royal Colleges, is producing guidance based on experiences from the UK and abroad.
The letter added: ‘This will include: a short education package for the entire NHS workforce; a service guide, including for anaesthetics and critical care; Covid-19 clinical management guides in collaboration with NICE.’
Meanwhile, the letter noted work was underway nationally to ensure a ‘step change’ in oxygen supply and distribution to hospitals.
NHS England is asking all trusts to immediately enhance their oxygen piping, pumping and bedside availability.
The letter said: ‘The goal is to have as many beds, critical care bays, theatre and recovery areas able to administer oxygen as possible.’
NHS England also added that national procurement for assisted respiratory support capacity – particularly mechanical ventilation – is ‘well under way in conjunction with the Department of Health and Social Care’.
As previously reported, NHS England reiterated the Government’s work with manufacturing companies, which will switch to producing ventilators.
Earlier this week, health secretary Matt Hancock said the NHS intended to bring back retired doctors – as well as ask doctors to temporarily switch specialty – to be retrained to operate ventilators.