NHS cautioned about infection control amid increasing Covid cases.

Exclusive: The Royal College of Nursing is questioning why the UK has not implemented the World Health Organization’s guidance on masks and respirators.

Amid a current surge in Covid cases, the Royal College of Nursing has raised concerns about the increased risk faced by hospital staff and patients due to the NHS’s failure to follow WHO’s advice on infection control.

The most recent data shows that one in 24 people in England and Scotland had Covid on December 13, up from one in 55 two weeks earlier.

The WHO has expressed concern about a new subvariant known as JN.1, which has rapidly spread in several regions. To address this, the WHO advises that all health facilities implement universal masking and provide health workers with respirators and other PPE.

Therefore, the Royal College of Nursing has written to the chief nursing officers in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, questioning why this guidance has not been implemented across the NHS.

The RCN’s letter points out that the current guidance in the national infection prevention and control manual (NIPCM) does not require hospital staff to use masks. It also leaves decisions regarding respirators to local risk assessors.

The RCN states that this guidance contradicts the advice given by the WHO.

Patricia Marquis, the RCN’s director for England, emphasizes the urgent need for revising the NIPCM guidance to ensure the universal implementation of masks and respirators for health workers. She expresses concerns about the impact of inadequate protection on nursing staff’s well-being and ability to provide safe patient care.

Marquis also raises concerns about ventilation in hospitals and highlights the necessity of assessing and improving it.

In its update on Tuesday, the WHO describes the global health risk posed by JN.1 as “low” based on available evidence. However, it acknowledges the potential increase in respiratory infections due to the onset of winter and the circulation of other respiratory diseases like influenza, RSV, and childhood pneumonia.

The UK Health Security Agency, responsible for the guidance, has been approached for comment.

Christina Pagel, a professor at University College London, suggests that JN.1 is likely to cause a wave of infections second only to the one observed in England in March 2022, driven by the Omicron variant. Pagel emphasizes the continued importance of Covid prevention measures and vaccination.

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