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NHS staff being trained to spot ebola signs in patients, says CMO

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Preparations are underway to ensure all frontline staff in local NHS hospitals across England are trained in how to deal with suspected cases of ebola, should someone “walk in off the street” showing symptoms.

Speaking during a parliamentary health committee session on the virus, chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said NHS England was training clinicians and other staff on how to use personal protective equipment, and the procedures around dealing with suspected cases.

“People could walk in off the street so we need staff to be prepared as to what to do”

Sally Davies

She added that every accident and emergency department was working to develop an isolation room on site where someone with suspected ebola could be placed before a diagnosis was made.

Dame Sally reiterated that only a “handful” of cases were expected in the UK over the next few months, but that contingency plans were being developed for a bigger outbreak.

She admitted she was concerned about whether NHS staff currently knew how to deal with the virus, but that the training preparations underway were “excellent”.

“I’ve been in contact with NHS England… and they are now moving to make sure all frontline staff – not just clinicians – are trained because people could walk in off the street so we need them to be prepared as to what to do,” she said.

Sally DaviesSally Davies

Dame Sally added: “Many of the hospitals are using this as an opportunity as a push on infection control more generally.

“That’s very important for the whole system, because this is not just about protecting patients, it’s about our staff,” she said.

The CMO explained that if a case of ebola were proven, the patient would then be transported by ambulance to a facility with specialist expertise in how to deal with the virus.

She confirmed that 14 beds had been set up across hospitals, including the Royal Free in London and others in Newcastle, Liverpool and Sheffield – with additional provision at the Royal Free if required.

Dame Sally was speaking during a one-off oral evidence session on the arrangements for dealing with the ebola outbreak, held by the Commons’ health select committee on 22 October.

A spokesperson for NHS England said: “NHS England has asked all NHS Trust chief executives to assure us that they have robust systems and processes in place to ensure that they have the ability to identify and isolate a patient who presents with a high suspicion of ebola or other infectious diseases.  

“They have also been asked to assure us that frontline staff have access to the right information and equipment and are trained in its use, including personal protective equipment.”

  • 3 Comments

Readers' comments (3)

  • It's good that there are plans in place but shouldn't the person who thinks they may have Ebola stay at home and have a special number to contact? Special teams should be set up across the country to meet these individuals at home and screen them there. This way it will reduce the risk of it spreading.

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  • If someone suspects they may have contracted the virus they will more likely want to be away from their family because they want to protect them and in the hands of professionals because they're frightened. So, people will walk in off the street and frontline staff have to be prepared for that eventuality. The systems and processes are in place we are assured. I welcome the fact that education and training is going beyond frontline staff in many places because this will provide reassurance to all staff.

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  • I hope the training, especially in regard to PPE, will be in line with the latest revised CDC guidelines; otherwise the NHS will be no better at containing Ebola than it has been at preventing the spread of MRSA.
    And surely the place to detect this is at the airport or port of entry of infected persons; or would screening people from affected countries be too discriminatory for the "yuman rights" brigade?

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