PRESS RELEASE: UNISON secures win for carers as Scottish government PPE guidance is withdrawn

thumbnail of PPE StatementPRESS RELEASE: After days of negotiations UNISON Scotland, along with other unions, has secured agreement from the Scottish Government that the PPE guidance agreed across the four UK nations applies, that the Chief Nursing Office’s contradictory guidance is withdrawn and that home and social care workers will get the PPE they need to do the vital jobs they are doing to keep us all safe.

The Chief Nursing Officers letter would have seen Scottish home and social carers receive less protection than their UK counterparts and had the potential to put them and their patients at increased risk of Covid19.

The Scottish Government and Chief Nursing Officer have now given their commitment that home and social carers can wear a fluid resistant face mask along with any other appropriate PPE they feel is necessary in carrying out their work. The Scottish Government advice says they trust the professional judgement of home and social carers in assessing the correct level of PPE required for the tasks they are undertaking.

Johanna Baxter, UNISON head of local government in Scotland said: “We are pleased that the Scottish Government have responded positively to the concerns UNISON raised, that the four-country guidance issued on Thursday 2nd April stands and the letter from Scotland’s Chief Nursing Officer, sent to COSLA on Sunday 5th, has been withdrawn. We will always stand up for our members and we will always fight to protect them. It is not acceptable that home and social care workers were put through this further anxiety. Their jobs are stressful enough.

Mark Ferguson, chair of UNISON Scotland local govt committee said: “We should never have got to this position but it has been UNISON leading on this issue and we are pleased we have now secured this resolution.  However we also know that difficulties remain with the supply of Personal Protective Equipment.  We are continuing to raise this with the Scottish Minister too and she has committed to addressing these.”

We are asking members to continue to let us know about any workplace issues by speaking to their workplace representatives or going on our website: 

1. Full joint statement with Scottish Government with COSLA and the SJC Unions​: 
“The Scottish Government with COSLA and the SJC Unions have agreed today that the guidance jointly published by the Department of Health and Social Care, Health Protection Scotland (HPS),  Public Health Wales, Public Health Agency Northern Ireland, Public Health England (PHE) and NHS England on 2 April 2020 is the official and fully comprehensive guidance on the matter of the use of PPE in the context of COVID19.

That guidance makes clear that social and home care workers can wear a fluid resistant face mask along with other appropriate PPE where the person they are visiting or otherwise attending to is neither confirmed nor suspected of having COVID19, if they consider doing so necessary to their own and the individual’s safety – they are professionals and we trust their professional judgement.

The guidance had input from Royal Colleges and is endorsed by expert scientific groups, as well as the Chief Medical Officers and Chief Nursing Officers in the UK.

COSLA and the SJC Trade Unions are clear that this joint statement is necessary to ensure our social and home care workforce has the confidence to carry out its role.  The Scottish Government has given assurances that it will take all possible steps to ensure all appropriate supplies will be made available to the workforce.  We recognise that this will also assure those who are receiving vital services and who are already shielding.

We wish to emphasise that all social and home care staff have our utmost thanks and support for the essential work they are carrying out during this pandemic.”

2. The original PPE guidance from the chief nursing officer said:

“Where the person is neither suspected to be, nor confirmed as COVID positive, care at home staff carrying out personal care should wear what they have always worn – that is, an apron and gloves; and no mask. This applies regardless of the 2m distance. The same would apply to a community nurse visiting the same client: they too would wear gloves and apron, and no mask. Furthermore, home care workers and community staff going into people’s houses should only wear a mask when they suspect the person has COVID, and they cannot keep a 2m distance.  If this is not suspected – or if they can keep a 2m distance – then they do not need to wear a Mask”

3. This PPE guidance caused a lot of concerns amongst home and social carers and it conflicted with PPE advice issued by the UK Government

4. Press release 7 April “New guidance for home and social care staff in Scotland puts home care staff at risk”

5. UK Govt guidance COVID-19 PPE:

6. A visual guide to safe PPE:

UNISON Scotland contacts:
Johanna Baxter, UNISON Scotland’s Head of Local Government: 07817 120894
Danny Phillips / Trisha Hamilton, UNISON Communications officers: 07944 664110 / 07903 85305