In Brief

Unclear government PPE advice blamed in home care coronavirus death inquiry

Report finds care worker who did not wear protection ‘fatally infected’ vulnerable client who was shielding

An unnamed person may have died after being infected with coronavirus by a care worker who was not wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) amid contradictory government advice, it has been revealed.

A report by the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) found that the death in April may have been caused by a care worker who infected the person with a fatal case of Covid-19 at a time when Public Health England (PHE) was publishing contradictory guidance.

The report found that PHE published two documents that month, one “advising care workers making home visits to wear PPE” and another that “did not mention the need”, The Guardian says. The guidance was not clarified for six weeks.

“A member of the public complained to the HSIB after seeing someone who was shielding in April – during the depth of Britain’s crisis – die after they were visited by carers who didn’t wear protective equipment”, the Daily Mail reports.

“After being told about the patient’s death, PHE later changed its online advice to make it clearer which was the latest version,” the paper adds.

Colin Angel, policy director at the United Kingdom Homecare Association, said yesterday that the government’s guidance had been a “shambles that had placed workers and their vulnerable clients at risk”.

Angel said guidance “has been consistently confusing for people who had to put it into practice”, adding that care homes “relied heavily on cross-referencing between different online documents [that] were using unfamiliar and ambiguous expressions”.

The association has “accused the government of sidelining its expertise and publishing new guidance with little notice, sometimes late on Friday nights, meaning that it was not always noticed by the people it was intended for”, The Guardian adds.

“We were very sorry to hear of what happened and lessons have been learnt,” said Dr Eamonn O’Moore, PHE’s head of adult social care. “We updated the links to the guidance clarifying the right one to use.”

PHE has now published a 28-page document on the gov.uk website explaining how carers can best protect patients from coronavirus.

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