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Adherence to protective measures among health care workers in the UK; a cross-sectional study

Publication date: 

20 Jan 2022


Emerg Med J 2022; 39:100-105


Smith LE, Serfioti D, Weston D, Greenberg N, Rubin GJ

Publication type: 



Abstract Background Healthcare workers (HCWs) are frontline responders to emergency infectious disease outbreaks such as COVID-19. To avoid the rapid spread of disease, adherence to protective measures is paramount. We investigated rates of correct use of personal protective equipment (PPE), hand hygiene and physical distancing in UK HCWs who had been to their workplace at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and factors associated with adherence. Methods We used an online cross-sectional survey of 1035 UK healthcare professionals (data collected 12–16 June 2020). We excluded those who had not been to their workplace in the previous 6 weeks, leaving us with a sample size of 831. Respondents were asked about their use of PPE, hand hygiene and physical distancing in the workplace. Frequency of uptake was reported descriptively; adjusted logistic regressions were used to separately investigate factors associated with adherence to use of PPE, maintaining good hand hygiene and physical distancing from colleagues. Results Adherence to personal protective measures was suboptimal (PPE use: 80.0%, 95% CI 77.3 to 82.8; hand hygiene: 67.8%, 95% CI 64.6 to 71.0; coming into close contact with colleagues: 74.7%, 95% CI 71.7 to 77.7). Adherence to PPE use was associated with having received training about health and safety in the workplace for COVID-19, greater perceived social pressure to adopt the behaviour and availability of PPE. Non-adherence was associated with fatalism about COVID-19 and greater perceived difficulty of adopting protective measures. Workplace design using markings to facilitate distancing was associated with adherence to physical distancing. Conclusions Uptake of personal protective behaviours among UK HCWs at the start of the pandemic was variable. Factors associated with adherence provide insight into ways to support HCWs to adopt personal protective behaviours, such as ensuring that adequate PPE is available and designing workplaces to facilitate physical distancing.