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Personal protective equipment (PPE) for carers

Last Updated 11:49am, 31 July 2020


Introduction

Information about coronavirus is available in different formats and languages, including easy read, BSL and for people who are not online.

Overview

This is a guide for informal carers who provide direct care to someone they do not live with. Direct care can be described as caring activities that take place within 2 metres and could include:

  • washing
  • toileting
  • dressing
  • oral care and feeding
  • assistance with medication
  • walking and getting up/going to bed

What is PPE?

Personal protective equipment, known as PPE for short, provides some measure of protection against infection, injury, or risks to health and safety. PPE cannot completely eliminate risk.

In health and social care, PPE will most commonly be things like gloves, aprons, and facemasks.

More specialist PPE is used in situations of particularly high risk, for example, a doctor or nurse in a hospital setting will likely use full body overalls and fluid-repellent aprons as well as filtering face piece respirators and eye/face protection.

This is in comparison to care, workers, where it is more likely that only aprons, gloves and facemask will be needed.

Details of what type of PPE should be used can be found in our guide for staff working within local authority, education, community and social care settings. Carers should refer to Table A for scenarios a to k. This is a live document so may change.

Who needs PPE?

Those people who are most at risk of either being infected or transmitting infection will be more likely to be in need of PPE.

The use of PPE should only be considered as a matter of last resort when other protective measures are insufficient.

PPE does not replace good hygiene and most people will be able to reduce risk effectively by following the guidance on social distancing, washing hands in the right way, and wiping down hard surfaces.

Cleaning your hands frequently throughout the day by washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using hand sanitiser will help protect you and the people you live with or need to visit.

This step is one of the most effective ways of reducing the risk of infection for you and other people. This includes when you arrive at the home of the person you care for, if you do not live with them, or have been out.

If you are caring for someone who falls into the ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ category for risk of severe illness from COVID-19, there are some simple steps that you can take to protect them and to reduce their risk. Ensure you follow advice on good hygiene and:

  • only provide care that is essential
  • wash your hands when you arrive at the home of the person you care for and often thereafter, using soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser
  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards
  • do not visit if you are unwell and make alternative arrangements for their care
  • provide information on who they should call if they feel unwell, how to use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service and leave the number for NHS 111 prominently displayed

Information about different sources of support that could be used and access to further advice on creating a contingency plan is available from Devon Carers.

Access to PPE

Because the supply of PPE that the Council and NHS have access to is so limited, we need to ensure that those at the greatest risk are supported first.

The supply of PPE is also not guaranteed. This is because other groups of people may need to be given priority access to PPE to minimise their risk and the risk they pose to others.

At present, Devon County Council is only able to make available limited amounts of PPE at a time.

The following types of carers will be able to access the supply of PPE subject to availability:

  • Carers who provide personal care and live separately from the cared-for person.
  • Carers who provide personal care to more than 2 people where at least 1 cared-for person lives separately from the carer.
  • Carers who provide personal care to a cared-for person who may be living with the carer and who is also providing childcare (sometimes known as ‘sandwich carers’).

Personal care means any type of care that can only be provided in close proximity to the cared-for person, for example, washing, dressing, feeding, medication.

This may also include where a carer must touch their cared-for person for reassurance or guidance in cases where the cared-for person has dementia or another cognitive impairment.

How to access PPE

New arrangements from 24 July 2020

Access to PPE is now available during normal office hours only (Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm).

As an unpaid carer you will continue to be able to access the PPE you require from DCC if you are unable to source it yourself.

Read the guide for staff working within local authority, education, community and social care settings carefully to understand what PPE you require.

To request PPE please complete this PPE request form

Please note that this form is intended for use by anyone who needs PPE so it covers other services as well as unpaid carers. Provide as much detail as you are able to and do not worry if there are parts you cannot complete – your request will still be responded to.

You should allow at least five days’ notice when submitting a request for PPE in normal circumstances. However, if you urgently require PPE please indicate this on the form and we will contact you as quickly as possible.

Call the Devon Carers Helpline on 0345 643 4435 if you require support or advice on the use of PPE.

A message for carers

Carers in Devon have been resilient and resourceful during the lockdown, and first of all we want to thank you again for everything you have done to keep our most vulnerable people safe and well.

We know that many carers are anxious about COVID-19, and indeed that many, out of concern for those they care for, have not accepted care workers coming into the home of the person they care for since the lockdown started. This message is particularly for those carers, but it will inform and hopefully reassure all carers in Devon.

Thanks to the way the people of Devon have carefully observed the measures to control COVID-19, right now infection rates are low here, and they never approached the levels we feared they could.

Of course, we must continue to be careful to maintain this. However, we know that many carers have not had a break since March.

Many carers are telling us they are very tired. Also, some are anxious that because they have managed during the crisis, they will be told they can carry on doing so without help. Some carers have started to come back to us to have services set up again, but many have not.

We want carers to know that eligibility for support is not affected by having managed alone. Of course, some services still have a way to go because of infection control requirements, but subject to these we can talk with carers and the people they care for about setting services up again.

We have learned a lot about providing services in a COVID-19-safe way during this time. Devon has beacon council status for the way social care has controlled the infection in services, and personal care at home has seen much lower rates of infection than anticipated.

We have overcome the early difficulties that were experienced with PPE, and our services can reliably access this.

Carers too can access PPE if they need it, please see full details of the new arrangements from 24 July.

Testing is available, where required. Care workers know how to provide the service safely, and care agencies want to get back to work. We want carers who need it to have a break.

So while none of us will be 100% safe from COVID-19 until we have an effective vaccine, you might want to consider whether now is the time to ask for any more support and a bit of time off.

Carers usually put their needs last, but don’t leave it too long.


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