Blog 39: Coronavirus

Hi Dudes,

Blog 39 here. Obviously this Blog is going to take a slightly different tone to the usual frolics.  Things are changing so rapidly that by the time you read these things may be out of date. Please keep up to date via government announcements / websites, and the trusts daily update. Remember to only use trusted and reliable sources for your information. UNISON are also putting out reliable information .

We have experienced a huge amount of calls asking about self-isolation, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). We have witnessed tears and determination, and everything in between. It is very clear that the staff, out there at the frontline are doing the hardest job, so professionally, but you are also understandably very concerned. Please care for each other. Protect each other’s mental health as well as physical health (you can’t have one without the other).

The Branch office is still running (on a reduced capacity) and we are having to change some priorities and ways of working but we are still here for you.

In terms of specifics we can point you to the Trusts emails and intra / internet site. We can still offer advice on ext 64369 but there are a lot of grey areas, and a lot of uncertainties – We will help where we can but as you will appreciate things are changing daily. Our regional officers are in touch with the Trust and collaborating the national / regional / local picture. When we get clearer guidance we will update you.

Below is some of the Trust advice as of 20/3/20 – it’s a straight lift but the bigger the spread of information the better so it is repeated below.

PPE requirements for confirmed and suspected COVID-19 cases

We’ve been asked for clarity on the PPE requirements so the IPC team has provided the below:

General clinical area-

When a staff member enters a bay, with no patient contact PPE requirements:
•surgical mask

When a staff member enters the near patient environment to deliver care PPE requirements:
•surgical mask
•disposable gloves

Critical Care environments:

When a staff member enters a near patient environment to deliver care, the PPE requirements are:
•FFP3 mask
•Eye protection
•Disposable Gloves

All settings:

When staff are undertaking an aerosol generating procedure, the PPE requirements are:

•FFP3 mask
•Eye protection
•Disposable Gloves

In the absence of an anteroom/lobby remove FFP3 respirators in a safe area (e.g. outside the isolation/cohort room/area).

All other PPE should be removed in the patient care area.

For staff using Public Transport – First Leeds are operating a Saturday service from 23/3/20. The trains are saying “ we are moving to a reduced are timetable from Monday 23 March which will see around half the usual number of trains running compared to a normal weekday. Early morning and late evening services are being protected wherever possible to support those doing shift work”


Do clinical staff need to self isolate if they are pregnant or have long term health conditions?
Current guidance states that pregnant women, people with underlying health conditions and people aged over 70 should be particularly stringent in following social distancing measures. A list of the people this affects can be found here.

We are following national guidance on this – COVID-19 is an evolving situation and this guidance may change when more evidence becomes available.

Managers are requested to support staff members in this category to continue to work in a way that supports this guidance, allowing individuals to continue to work while minimising social contact. This may include remote working or moving to a lower risk area.

I’m pregnant and work in clinical areas, should I be taking additional precautions?

You should work with your line manager to undertake a risk assessment. If you work in an area where patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are being treated then you should discuss temporarily moving to a new area of work (redeployment) or consider alternative duties within your department (eg non-clinical duties, telephone consultations, etc).

What is the guidance for staff who have pregnant partners?

Staff members who live with someone who is pregnant should follow the national guidance and continue to come to work unless they or anyone in their household has symptoms. 

If a member of my household shows symptoms but I do not, what should I do?

The symptoms of COVID-19 are:
•a high temperature – you feel hot to touch on your chest or back
•a new, continuous cough – this means you’ve started coughing repeatedly

If you live with someone who has any of these symptoms, you should follow national guidance and stay at home for 14 days from the day the first person got symptoms.

Please inform your line manager that you are self-isolating and where possible, make arrangements to work from home.

Managers are requested to support individuals to explore every option for working from home, even if this means a change to the type of work that individuals would normally do.

Where an individual self-isolates and is not able to work from home, the absence should be recorded as Medical Suspension. Where the individual is unwell, this should be recorded as Sickness Absence.

What happens if you have ongoing symptoms after self isolating?

The symptoms of COVID-19 are:
•a high temperature – you feel hot to touch on your chest or back
•a new, continuous cough – this means you’ve started coughing repeatedly

If you continue to experience symptoms following a period of self isolation, please follow the national guidance about when to end isolation.
Please keep your line manager informed about when you expect to return to work.

Are you considering COVID-19 tests for staff?

Our laboratories are currently testing patients who fit the national criteria. There is national work underway to explore the possibility of testing staff members to help support the current pressures on our workforce.

My manager has agreed that I can work from home – how do I arrange this?

Staff can access different elements of the IT system to enable them to work from home.

Do I need to attend training?

Staff should prioritise FIT testing – if you need details of when this is taking place please speak to your line manager.

All other face to face training is cancelled with immediate effect for the next four weeks (to be reviewed) except where it is essential for the continuing provision of clinical/patient services.  All delegates will be contacted in advance and courses rearranged at a point in the future.

CSUs are working with the mandatory training leads if their staff need to access face to face mandatory training over the coming weeks.
Should I use the staff shuttle bus?

The staff shuttle bus should be used for essentia

l and business critical purposes. If you would prefer to walk rather than get the shuttle, where possible, please consider allowing more time to facilitate this.

Do I need a sick note after the first 7 days of self-isolation?

No – please notify your line manager if you are self-isolating. National guidance states that you should not visit your GP if you or anyone that you live with has symptoms.
If I cancel my annual leave can I carry the extra days over?

If staff cancel leave before 31 March 2020 due to the current situation, then the carry over of more than the normal five days annual leave is allowed in these exceptional circumstances, providing that staff have taken their statutory minimum of 28 days annual leave (including bank holidays). Staff who have more than five days leave remaining at 31 March for other reasons will require approval through the normal routes.

There is currently no facility to sell annual leave, or be paid for untaken annual leave for the 2019/2020 year. We will look at how we manage staff taking additional leave in the next year and the potential for the Trust being able to buy some of this leave back in a planned way.

The Government has provided further clarity on its pledge to ensure that schools remain open for the children of ‘key workers’.

The list includes all NHS workers and applies even if just one parent works in a vital role.

This includes but is not limited to doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers, and other frontline health and social care staff including volunteers; the support and specialist staff required to maintain the UK’s health and social care sector and those working as part of the health and social care supply chain, including producers and distributers of medicines and medical and personal protective equipment.

If your child’s school is closed then please contact your local authority, who will seek to redirect you to a local school in your area that your child, or children, can attend.

Please take care of yourselves , use the equipment provided, and look after each other in these unprecedented times. If you need to talk give us a call on ext 64369 we may not have all the answers yet,  but we are still here for you as much as possible. In continuing solidarity.

….Speak soon xxx