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Personal protective equipment (PPE) for carers

Last Updated 5:48pm, 3 June 2020


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


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 during the week (Monday to Friday, 9.00 am to 5.00 pm)

  1. Please read the guide for staff working within local authority, education, community and social care settings carefully to understand what PPE you require.
  2. If you need PPE, please complete an online PPE request form.

If you are unable to complete the form please call the Devon Carers Helpline on 0345 643 4435.

Please note: Supplies are limited; therefore, you may not receive the amounts you request in full. All requests will be prioritised using national and local public health guidance.

You may also be required to collect your supply of PPE from a local PPE store.

How to access PPE out of hours (after 5.00 pm on weekdays or anytime on a Saturday or Sunday)

If there is an urgent need for PPE out of hours, carers will be supplied with an emergency pack of PPE.

  1. Please read the guide for staff working within local authority, education, community and social care settings carefully to understand what PPE you require.
  2. Please call 0330 1244491 to request an emergency pack of PPE.

Arrangements will be made for an emergency pack of PPE to be delivered to the address provided.