NHS hospital trust sends six staff home with Covid symptoms after car-sharing without masks

An NHS hospital trust had to send home six staff who reported Covid-19 symptoms after car-sharing without masks.

The University Hospitals of North Midlands Trust (UHNM) said it had reminded staff of the importance of face coverings following the incidents.

The trust added that 583 – or 5% – of its 11,500 staff were currently off work for Covid-19 related reasons.

That includes those who have tested positive as well as those self-isolating after being in contact with, or caring for, someone who had the disease.

In total, 987 members of staff were off sick as of November 3.

The trust runs The Royal Stoke University Hospital in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, and Stafford’s County Hospital.

The masks rule breach came to light after an email to staff was sent by trust medical director John Oxtoby on October 28, according to The Guardian.

UHNM would not say in which departments the six staff members worked, or whether it had had any impact on patient care.

The Government has published guidance on the rules around car-sharing, telling people to avoid doing so with people not from their social bubble or household.

People “can reduce the risk of transmission by… asking the driver and passengers to wear a face covering”, according to the gov.uk website.

In a statement to the PA news agency, Mr Oxtoby said: “Our staff, like those in the NHS across the country, have been working incredibly hard with no real respite between the first wave of the pandemic, the recovery of services and now the second surge of Covid-19.

“We all obviously have a responsibility to observe national guidance and our staff are regularly kept up to date with the latest advice as it becomes available.

“Wearing a face mask and eye protection alongside hand washing and social distancing are all important measures of reducing the spread of Covid-19 in our hospitals and to keep our patients and communities safe.

“The pandemic has asked a lot of us all and it is important to continue to remind our staff to look after themselves and each other.”

Latest NHS data available showed the trust had 171 beds occupied by patients who had tested positive for coronavirus on Tuesday last week, of which about 10% were on ventilators.

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