NHS hospitals told to protect staff working in PPE during warm weather amid heat stress warning

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NHS hospitals have been urged to protect frontline staff wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) amid a warning about the risks of heat stress as the UK basks in a period of prolonged warm weather.

A letter from Public Health England (PHE) and the Health and Safety Executive to hospital trusts, GPs and pharmacies said doctors and nurses should be given regular breaks and recommended that a buddy system be established with people urged to watch for the signs of heat stress, which can lead to more serious heat stroke.

“Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) in warm/hot environments increases the risk of heat stress,” the PHE memo said.

“This occurs when the body is unable to cool itself enough to maintain a healthy temperature. Heat stress can cause heat exhaustion and lead to heat stroke if the person is unable to cool down.

“Measures to control the temperature of clinical environments and enable staff to make behavioural adaptations to stay cool and well hydrated should be made.”

NHS managers should expect staff productivity to be affected, the letter said, while warning that demand for discardable PPE would grow since staff must discard their masks and gowns between each break, which they are being encouraged to take more regularly.

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Source: The Independent

Date: 10 June 2021