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Guidance on the access and use of PPE for those who provide unpaid care for family and friends.

First published:
29 June 2020
Last updated:

Introduction

This guidance is for anyone who provides regular personal care to a vulnerable friend or relative. Personal care requires direct contact with the person you care for.  While providing personal care it is not possible to keep a distance of 2 metres.

This guidance explains:

  • the situations in which unpaid carers might need to use PPE
  • where to access PPE
  • how to use PPE safely

General guidance is available for those who provide unpaid care for family and friends.

General advice

Washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is one of the most effective ways of reducing the risk of infection.

This is particularly important when you:

  • arrive at the home of the person you care for
  • have been out and are returning home to a vulnerable person

Other measures both you and the person you care for can take to reduce the risk of infection include:

  • wash your hands more often – with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitiser. Do this after you blow your nose, sneeze or cough, and before and after you eat or handle food
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • avoid close contact with people who have symptoms
  • cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in a bin and wash your hands
  • clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in the home.  This includes door handles, food preparation surfaces and cooking utensils

Follow social distancing rules by staying 2 metres apart from anyone outside of your household who you are not providing care for. This will reduce the risk of spreading the virus to the person you are visiting to provide care, or to the person you care for at home.

When to use PPE

You may be eligible to receive a supply of PPE from your local authority if:

  • you are providing personal care to a person or people with symptoms, or there is someone in your household with symptoms. They could live in your household or in a different household to the one you live in
  • you are providing personal care to a person or people who are shielding. They could live in your household or in a different household to the one you live in
  • you are shielding and are providing personal care to others in your household - as long as they have no symptoms

Personal care may include helping someone to:

  • wash or bathe
  • use the toilet
  • get dressed and undressed
  • eat and drink
  • take medication

Personal care requires direct contact with the person you care for and it is not possible to keep a distance of 2 metres.

If you have COVID-19 symptoms or are shielding

The most common symptoms of coronavirus are recent onset of one or more of the following:

  • new continuous cough
  • high temperature
  • loss of or change to sense of smell or taste

Anyone experiencing at least one of the coronavirus symptoms can apply for a home testing kit using the UK online portal. The results of a coronavirus test can help to decide if PPE is needed.

It is very important that you do not carry out any personal care if:

  • you develop any of these symptoms and those you care for have no symptoms
  • those you care for develop any of these symptoms and you are shielding

Guidance is available on what to do if you are unable to continue providing care. It covers the steps you can take to plan alternative care arrangements.

If you are shielding, please follow the guidance on shielding.

Guidance is also available on how to self-isolate and look after yourself at home if there is possible coronavirus in your household.

If those you care for, or anyone else in your household, has COVID-19 symptoms

A single session of personal care refers to the period of time when you are carrying out personal care activities. How long a session lasts will depend on what you are helping the person you care for with. You may need to undertake a number of separate sessions of personal care throughout the day.

For a single session you should use the following PPE:

  • a face mask
  • eye protection
  • a pair of gloves
  • an apron

After you have completed a session of personal care:

  • carefully remove the PPE
  • dispose of the PPE you have used
  • try to maintain a distance of 2 metres or more if you can while you are not providing personal care
  • follow the general advice

Do not carry out any personal care if you develop any of the common coronavirus symptoms and those you care for have no symptoms.

If you or those you care for are shielding

Follow the same advice above.  But do not carry out any personal care if you are shielding and those you care for develop any of the common coronavirus symptoms.

Guidance is available for people who are vulnerable to the coronavirus illness, and their carers.

Where to get PPE

Each local authority has its own arrangements for getting supplies of appropriate PPE to unpaid carers. Contact your local authority for advice. They can tell you if you are eligible for PPE and how you can access it.

Also contact your local authority if you normally use PPE but cannot currently access this through your normal routes.  

How to use PPE safely

PPE will come with instructions on how to use it in a way that reduces the risk of infection.

In general, you should:

  • wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water before putting on any PPE
  • replace your PPE if it becomes damaged, soiled or uncomfortable
  • you can throw away your PPE in the normal household waste if the person you are caring for has no symptoms. You should do this immediately after providing personal care
  • if the person you care for is experiencing symptoms, you must place the PPE in a disposable bag and then a secondary disposable bag. Tie it securely and hold for 72 hours away from where it may be disturbed. Then place it in the household waste bin for collection