Upgrading PPE for staff on Covid wards ‘dramatically cut infections’

An NHS hospital which upgraded the type of face masks used by staff on Covid-19 wards saw a dramatic fall in hospital-acquired coronavirus infections among those workers, by up to 100%, research has indicated.

Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge upgraded the masks used by staff on Covid-19 wards from fluid resistant surgical masks (FRSMs) to filtering face piece 3 (FFP3) respirators, with the change made in late December in response to its own staff testing data.

The UK Infection Prevention Control (IPC) cell had, until recently, recommended that healthcare workers caring for Covid-19 patients should use FRSMs as respiratory protective equipment.

HEALTH Coronavirus PPE
(PA Graphics)

The IPC cell recommended that an FFP3 respirator should be used if an aerosol-generating procedure were being carried out, such as inserting a breathing tube into the patient’s windpipe.

Guidance has recently been updated to oblige NHS organisations to assess the risk that Covid-19 poses to staff and provide FFP3 respirators where appropriate.

Addenbrooke’s has been testing staff for Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic, even when workers showed no symptoms.

This testing programme indicated that healthcare workers caring for Covid-19 patients were at greater risk of infection than staff on non-Covid-19 wards, even when using the recommended respiratory protective equipment.

In response, the hospital’s infection control committee upgraded the type of masks used by staff on Covid-19 wards.

Prior to the upgrade, Covid-19 cases were higher among staff on Covid-19 wards compared with non-Covid-19 wards in seven out of the eight weeks analysed by researchers.

Following the change in protective equipment, the incidence of infection on the two types of ward was similar.

Coronavirus – Thu May 21, 2020
Nursing staff work on a ward at Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge (Kirsty Wrigglesworth/PA)

The research has not yet been peer-reviewed, but is being released early because of the urgent need to share information relating to the pandemic.

Dr Chris Illingworth, from the MRC Biostatistics Unit at Cambridge University, said: “Before the face masks were upgraded, the majority of infections among healthcare workers on the Covid-19 wards were likely due to direct exposure to patients with Covid-19.

Source: Yahoo News