Image copyright PAUL ELLIS/AFP

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in NI has written to the health minister to seek clarity over the reuse of personal protective equipment (PPE).

BBC News NI understands the letter was sent after Public Health England changed its guidance around PPE use.

It said where there are acute shortages and it is safe to do so, it approves the sessional and reuse of PPE.

The Department of Health said the guidance “is not implemented in NI at this point”.

The total number of Covid-19-related deaths in Northern Ireland, announced by the Public Health Agency, is now 194.

On Sunday, it was announced that another 159 people have tested positive for the virus, bringing the total to 2,645, with a total of 16,490 individuals tested.

Public Health England said its advice about PPE should only apply where items are not available and should be considered a temporary measure until the global supply chain is adequate to meet the UK’s needs.

But the Royal College of Nursing in NI said it was not consulted on the change and has asked Health Minister Robin Swann not to implement the new guidance in Northern Ireland.

Pat Cullen, RCN NI director, said the health minister and other ministers had been asked to reassure them that they will not be placed in a position where, like England, they could be asked to reuse PPE.

“We asked the minister for health, and the other executive ministers on Saturday, as a result of significant very concerning conversations with our nurses, that they would also not adopt or not, implement the guidance from England here in Northern Ireland. In fact, we asked them to specifically reject the guidance,” she told BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme.

She added that Robin Swann got back “promptly” but she said “his response does not go far enough for us to be able to go out and give that reassurance to those nurses that are coming on duty that they will not be in a position where they will have to use items marked for single use a second time or third time”.

“That’s not right. It shouldn’t have to happen,” she said.

Image caption Pat Cullen, RCN NI director, said the health minister had been asked to reassure them that they will not have to reuse PPE

While it is understood that the other devolved nations have already committed not to implement the revised guidance, the Department of Health in Northern Ireland said: “This guidance on the reuse of PPE is not implemented in NI at this point.

“And if or when it might be required, the department will consider this, taking account of the national and scientific evidence and will provide further advice at the appropriate time.

“Such consideration will be undertaken if required, and only following full engagement and in consultation with professional bodies and trade union representative organisations.”

A spokesperson said that following earlier guidance, issued on 10 April, on “where PPE can be used for single use or on a sessional basis”, updated advice regarding the reuse of suitable visors and goggles would be issued through the Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland.

“The department fully understand that staff on the frontline need reassurance,” continued the spokesperson.

“The department has set up a new dedicated email contact point for all staff to raise PPE concerns.”

That email address is

The RCN said it was seeking further clarification.

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