The Scottish Government is to issue fresh advice saying that care workers should get face masks to protect themselves from the coronavirus.
After a meeting with trade unions, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman about-turned on controversial guidance suggesting care workers should not wear masks if a patient is not suspected of having the virus.
A joint statement to that effect will be signed by ministers, local government representatives and unions following controversy over Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) guidelines.
The health workers union Unison had attacked existing “dangerous” guidelines in Scotland which said care workers only needed gloves and apron if a person was not suspected of having Covid-19.
The controversial instructions had been issued by Chief Nursing Officer Fiona McQueen in the form of a letter as a supplement to UK guidance. According to reports, the letter has been withdrawn and Ms Freeman apologised.
The UK guidance, which was also put out by the Scottish Government, said workers should have access to all appropriate PPE advising staff to make “real time assessments” of risk.
After the meeting, a Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government will agree a joint statement with Cosla and trades unions to underline that social care staff can wear protective masks where they feel appropriate in line with their professional judgement.”
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard, who has called for the supplementary guidance to be altered, said: “This is welcome news and a victory for care workers and the trade unions who represent them.
“We welcome the Scottish Government’s response in rescinding the letter from the chief nursing officer which undermined the previously agreed guidance.
“Care workers and service users have been put at risk by the failure to provide adequate protective equipment. Never again should workers in this vital sector be treated so poorly. It is right that the Scottish Government has listened on this, and work must continue to ensure there is an adequate supply of the right personal protective equipment for all frontline workers.”
The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) said the change had resulted from an “incredibly effective intervention” by the unions.
Incredibly effective intervention by the three unions @unisonscot @GMBScotOrg @UniteScotland. Impossible to overestimate the contribution they are making to saving lives. We understand a joint statement will be issued by @COSLA @scotgov & unions 👇 https://t.co/6qCGk42TjF
— STUC (@ScottishTUC) April 8, 2020
The Scottish Government spokesman added: “The safety of our health and social care workers is paramount. The Scottish Government, Cosla and trades unions had a productive meeting this evening to discuss PPE.
“The guidance published on April 2 and agreed by the four nations remains in place and all health and social care staff will continue to have access to appropriate PPE where they need it.”