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Paramedics sent to suspected coronavirus patients without being told, union claims

PUBLISHED: 16:10 16 March 2020 | UPDATED: 18:09 16 March 2020

A Unison health and safety officer at the East of England Ambulance criticised a lack of training and protection for staff from coronavirus. Photo: EEAST

A Unison health and safety officer at the East of England Ambulance criticised a lack of training and protection for staff from coronavirus. Photo: EEAST

EEAST

Paramedics are treating patients without being told they have coronavirus symptoms, a union has claimed.

Jeff Pittman said one crew had been told to not self-isolate despite treating a suspected coronavirus patient. Photo: EEASTJeff Pittman said one crew had been told to not self-isolate despite treating a suspected coronavirus patient. Photo: EEAST

In an email to members, a Unison health and safety officer at the East of England Ambulance Service said staff had told him about cases where they had been called out to help patients with symptoms of the virus, but the call centre, NHS 111, had not told them about those symptoms.

“This crucial information is not apparently being passed to the crews,” Jeff Pittman wrote in the email last week. “This fails to comply with NHS England advice.”

“This failure results in ambulance crews entering a hazardous area... without PPE (personal protective equipment).” PPE can include face masks gloves and suits.

In another case, staff who helped a patient with coronavirus symptoms were told by their manager that they did not need to self-isolate unless that person later tested positive for it, he said.

The patient had recently returned from Italy and the crew were with him for more than 50 minutes, he wrote.

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Mr Pittman said: “This raises a whole bucket load of issues as that crew will then attend other patients.”

The incidents go against the ambulance service’s own instructions to staff which state: “If a risk assessment indicates the possibility of Covid-19, appropriate PPE must be donned safely before being within 1m of patient, or having contact with, the patient.”

Marcus Bailey, chief operating officer at EEAST said: “Call centres and 111 are following the agreed procedure for the assessment of patients.”

He added: “We are following national guidance to ensure the highest standards of care and welfare for staff, volunteers and patients and we also have close direct links with our nominated staffside representatives at Unison allowing them to raise any individual concerns directly with our senior team.

“All our vehicles carry a full range of PPE and staff are fully trained in how to use it when treating patients.”

But Mr Pittman, who works as a paramedic in Waveney, accused ambulance chiefs of giving staff a “total lack of adequate training” to stop the spread of the contagious disease.

Unison Eastern regional organiser Sam Older said: “NHS employers have given all NHS Trusts advice on what to do and they should be following this.

“It’s very concerning if Trusts are not implementing it and ambulance crews, their patients and indeed their families are being put at risk.”


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