Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) plays a key role in infection prevention and control in health and social care services if used effectively and alongside other vital infection prevention and control measures including:

We have produced a guide for staff working in local authority, education, community and social care settings in Torbay. This is updated regularly in line with national guidance. A key message throughout is that, if the risk cannot be controlled in another way, PPE should be used as a last resort. Even then, PPE should be used alongside the control measures as outlined above.

Use of PPE

Recommendations for use of PPE will be based on your role and the type of care or service you provide. Please use the national PPE guidance, alongside our guidance for staff to inform your use of PPE.

Public use of face coverings

The Government recommend the use of face coverings when in an enclosed space where social distancing is not possible, or when you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet. A face covering is not the same as the surgical masks or respirators used by health and social care workers. These should continue to be reserved for those who need them to protect against risks in their workplace. Guidance on how to wear and make a cloth face covering is available.

Evidence suggests that wearing a face covering does not protect you. However, if you are infected but have not yet developed symptoms, it may provide some protection for others you come into close contact with.

It is essential that face coverings do not replace social distancing. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you and your household must isolate at home in line with the stay at home guidance. face coverings do not change this.

Face coverings do not need to be worn outdoors, while exercising, in schools, in workplaces such as offices and retail or by those who may find them difficult to wear (for example children or anyone with breathing problems).

Quality standards of PPE

Where PPE is recommended, it is important to ensure the PPE you are using offers the right level of protection to yourself and others. Three types of masks are currently recommended for health and social care settings depending on your role and the procedures being carried out:

  • Surgical Masks (marked as Type II)
  • Fluid Resistant Surgical Masks (marked as Type IIR)
  • Respirators (marked as FFP3)

These masks should meet the relevant standards, usually evidenced by a CE mark and a BS EN number.

When these masks are recommended, cloth masks are not an adequate alternative.

The national specification for PPE document provides further information on the essential technical requirements of all PPE recommended by our  South West Local Authority PPE guidance. Our guidance also signposts to further advice about the steps to take if you are affected by a shortage of PPE.

Safe donning and doffing your PPE

Putting on and removing PPE in the correct way is key to it offering effective protection. Please take time to familiarise yourself with the correct process using this visual guide for donning and doffing your PPE or video before you need to use PPE for your role.

PPE should always be ‘donned’ and ‘doffed’ at least two metres away from the people you are working with or any person who has a cough.

Hand hygiene should always be performed before and after removing PPE.

Safe disposal of PPE

PPE should be removed at the earliest opportunity to prevent self-contamination. Following use PPE should be placed in a bag, then tied securely in another bag and put aside for 72 hours before it can be disposed of in office or household waste bins. There is also guidance around the disposal of PPE and other waste.

Period of use

PPE guidance sets out when single and sessional is appropriate.

In general terms:

  • Gloves and aprons are single use. This means they should be changed after every service-user contact. For example, if you are seeing three service users in one setting, you would need to use three sets of gloves and aprons.
  • Masks and eye protection can be sessional use. This means they can be used continuously until you take a break from your duties or otherwise need to remove them. New facemasks and eye protection would then be needed for your next duty period.
  • PPE should always be changed and safely disposed of if it becomes soiled, damaged or compromised in any way.
  • Facemasks should cover the nose and face and should not be touched once put on.

Decontaminating reusable PPE

Most of the PPE we are issuing is disposable. However eye goggles can be reused if they are effectively cleaned between each sessional use. The World Health Organisation, for cleaning eye protection so that it may be safely used again, advises that goggles be cleaned with soap/detergent and water followed by disinfection using either sodium hypochlorite 0.1% (followed by rinsing with clean water) or 70% alcohol wipes. Goggles may be cleaned immediately after removal and hand hygiene is performed OR placed in designated closed container for later cleaning and disinfection.

Access to PPE

We along with partners are supporting access to PPE for those unable to use the NHS supply chain. We ask that those in need of PPE:

  1. Access via their usual channel if this is available to them.
  2. Contact the following suppliers to access national stock directly.
  3. Use the contacts below only once 1 and 2 have been attempted.

When making a request for PPE you will be asked about:

  • Your current stock of PPE
  • Your daily usage and need based on national guidance
  • The avenues you have already explored.


National PPE Wholesalers

Hand washing

The most important thing we can all do is still to wash our hands thoroughly and regularly through the day:

  • wash your hands with soap and water often, for at least 20 seconds, especially before eating or preparing food and after using public transport
  • always carry tissues and use them to catch your cough or sneeze, then bin the tissue, and wash your hands with soap and water
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  • avoid close contact with people who are unwell

View the Public Health England poster on how to wash your hands.