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”
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.
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.
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.”