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We're calling for UK wide guidance for healthcare staff on masks and testing

16th Oct 2023 - Edward Pinches

United Kingdom

As we head into winter, and COVID rates rising, we want to help protect those with blood cancer. We’re calling for UK-wide guidance to be reintroduced asking healthcare staff, to wear masks in clinical settings.

Many blood cancer patients are immunocompromised due to the nature of their condition and treatments and at more risk of infection.

A healthcare professional and patient looking at each other. The patient is sitting in a chair having treatment administered.

Our senior Policy and Public Affairs Manager, Laura Challinor, said:
“There are 280,000 people living with blood cancer in the UK, and due to the nature of their condition and treatment, many are also immunocompromised.

“While it is currently not compulsory to wear face masks in all healthcare settings, the absence of masks can cause worry for people in this group. We would like to see hospitals carry out risk assessments for people at high risk of adverse COVID-19 outcomes and while haematology units are generally aware of their patients’ vulnerability and will wear masks.

"We’ve heard from health care practitioners who couldn’t always find masks in their department. People with blood cancer also frequently visit other departments for things like blood tests and x-rays, where there may not be the same awareness of risk for the immunosuppressed. We encourage hospitals to make sure masks are available for their staff and to be prepared that people with blood cancer may reasonably ask staff members outside of haematology departments to wear a mask during an assessment or consultation.

"We know maintaining appointments is crucial for those with blood cancer and mask wearing can provide vital reassurance for many. However, we would welcome UK-wide guidance that asks health and care staff, if they are able to, to wear masks in all clinical settings reintroduced for the autumn, winter and other periods where cases of COVID-19 are observed to be rising. Current local variations risk an unequal approach to protecting vulnerable people in the UK, including people with blood cancer.

“What we need to see is increased COVID-19 testing in clinical settings and an effort to make sure staff who are experiencing respiratory infection symptoms or get a positive COVID-19 results are following UK Health Security Agency guidance. Earlier this year symptomatic testing in hospitals was greatly reduced. We would also like to see guidance published and resources made available to allow for symptomatic testing of all healthcare staff in all clinical settings, as well as support for staff to stay home if they have COVID-19.”

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