Access to personal protective equipment in healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom: results from a nationwide cohort study (UK-REACH)

On behalf of the UK-REACH Study Collaborative Group

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    2 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: Healthcare workers (HCWs) are at high risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Effective use of personal protective equipment (PPE) reduces this risk. We sought to determine the prevalence and predictors of self-reported access to appropriate PPE (aPPE) for HCWs in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: We conducted cross sectional analyses using data from a nationwide questionnaire-based cohort study administered between December 2020-February 2021. The outcome was a binary measure of self-reported aPPE (access all of the time vs access most of the time or less frequently) at two timepoints: the first national lockdown in the UK in March 2020 (primary analysis) and at the time of questionnaire response (secondary analysis). Results: Ten thousand five hundred eight HCWs were included in the primary analysis, and 12,252 in the secondary analysis. 35.2% of HCWs reported aPPE at all times in the primary analysis; 83.9% reported aPPE at all times in the secondary analysis. In the primary analysis, after adjustment (for age, sex, ethnicity, migration status, occupation, aerosol generating procedure exposure, work sector and region, working hours, night shift frequency and trust in employing organisation), older HCWs and those working in Intensive Care Units were more likely to report aPPE at all times. Asian HCWs (aOR:0.77, 95%CI 0.67–0.89 [vs White]), those in allied health professional and dental roles (vs those in medical roles), and those who saw a higher number of COVID-19 patients compared to those who saw none (≥ 21 patients/week 0.74, 0.61–0.90) were less likely to report aPPE at all times. Those who trusted their employing organisation to deal with concerns about unsafe clinical practice, compared to those who did not, were twice as likely to report aPPE at all times. Significant predictors were largely unchanged in the secondary analysis. Conclusions: Only a third of HCWs in the UK reported aPPE at all times during the first lockdown and that aPPE had improved later in the pandemic. We also identified key determinants of aPPE during the first UK lockdown, which have mostly persisted since lockdown was eased. These findings have important implications for the safe delivery of healthcare during the pandemic.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number867
    JournalBMC Health Services Research
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    We would like to thank all the healthcare workers who took part in this study when the NHS was under immense pressure. We wish to acknowledge the members of the UK-REACH Professional Expert Panel (Amir Burney, Association of Pakistani Physicians of Northern Europe; Tiffanie Harrison; London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust; Ahmed Hashim, Sudanese Doctors Association; Sandra Kazembe, University Hospitals Leicester NHS Trust; Susie M. Lagrata (Co-chair), Filipino Nurses Association-UK & University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust; Satheesh Mathew, British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin; Juliette Mutuyimana, Kingston Hospitals NHS Trust; Padmasayee Papineni (Co-chair), London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust), and the Steering and Advisory Group, and SERCO, as well as the following people for their support in setting up the study from the regulatory bodies: Kerrin Clapton and Andrew Ledgard (General Medical Council), Caroline Kenny (Nursing and Midwifery Council), David Teeman and Lisa Bainbridge (General Dental Council), My Phan and John Tse (General Pharmaceutical Council), Angharad Jones and Marcus Dye (General Optical Council), Charlotte Rogers (The Health and Care Professions Council) and Mark Neale (Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland). We would also like to acknowledge the following trusts and sites who recruited participants to the study: Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, University Hospitals Leicester, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Northumbria Healthcare, Berkshire Healthcare, Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, South Tees NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham and Solihull NHS Foundation Trust, Affinity Care, Royal Brompton and Harefield, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, St George’s Hospital, Yeovil District Hospital, Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust, Black Country Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust, South Central Ambulance Service, University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire, University Hospitals Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, London Ambulance Trust, Royal Free, Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Central London Community Healthcare, Chesterfield Royal Hospital, Bridgewater Community Healthcare, Northern Borders, County Durham and Darlington Foundation Trust, Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust.

    Funding Information:
    MP conceived of the idea and led the application for funding with input from MT, KK, KW, LN, SC, LG, ALG and CJ. The questionnaire was designed by KW, MP, ICM, CMel, CJ, ALG, LN, AG1 and CAM. Online consent and questionnaire tools were developed by LB. CAM, DP and JN wrote the first draft of the manuscript with input from MP. AA, LB, SC, LJG, BG, AG1, ALG, AG2, TH, CJ, ICM, LBN, RR, SS, MDT, KW, SZ and KK contributed to and approved the submitted manuscript.

    Publisher Copyright:
    © 2022, The Author(s).


    • COVID-19
    • Ethnicity
    • Healthcare worker
    • Personal protective equipment
    • PPE


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