Multi Discipline Health Forum

Covid-19 testing should be available for essential staff

One vital aspect to control the spread of Covid-19 and support the response is testing. The Government has a target of 25,000 tests to be available through a swab - useful for patients and NHS staff. We are concerned with ethical practice where tests are available privately, for example by private Occupational Health providers. From an ethical point of view we believe tests should be offered to essential staff – from the police, fire service, care home workers and health professionals. The tests should also meet public health standards of efficacy using reliable tests and following normal ethical principles.

Endorsed by SOM, BOHS, CIEHF, FOHN, iOH, IOM, 31st March 2020


Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) availability and current recommendations

We are concerned about Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) availability and current PHE recommendations which do not seem to be science/evidence based. It is not clear which combinations of PPE are most effective in preventing which types of exposure, (to droplets, aerosols, surface contamination), and when they should be used. For example, should surgical masks, filtering respirators or powered respirators be used in specific scenarios or for particular groups of health care professionals.

The science and complexity of risk management that guides decision making regarding the deployment of PPE is rapidly evolving. BOHS has formed an expert panel to provide ongoing technical support and guidance to relevant parts of the public sector, including the HSE and its membership. The Government has stated there is no problem with PPE supplies, which seems to be at odds to what we are hearing from front line professionals.

We hope the Government will rapidly ensure all health care professionals have the correct PPE supplies. We have written to Matt Hancock about whether there is a shortage of PPE and if there is anything we can do to support supply or modify controls.

Note: examples of current guidance documents at:

Endorsed by SOM, BOHS, CIEHF, FOHN, iOH, IOM, 31st March 2020



Frequent hand washing and potential for dermatitis 

We are also concerned about the risk of dermatitis that may be triggered by frequent hand washing affecting health professionals’ ability to carry on their work.

Hand hygiene is probably the most important measure that an individual can adopt in the attempt to prevent, or at least minimise, the potential for infection with the COVID-19 virus.  However, frequent hand washing can lead to damaging the surface layer of the skin (leading to skin drying and cracking) making it easier for transient micro-organisms to colonise the skin and the development of dermatitis, which can lead to unnecessary absence from work by health professionals.

The application of a moisturiser should form an integral part of any hand washing procedure in order for the skin to remain healthy. There is also evidence that the use of an appropriately formulated hand sanitiser can maintain the skin’s barrier and is a suitable alternative to soap and water.

Further information is available from BOHS.

Endorsed by SOM, BOHS, CIEHF, FOHN, iOH, IOM, 31st March 2020