TUC summit leads to gradual phasing out of latex gloves in the NHS
Latex gloves that can cause allergic reactions are set to be phased out in
the NHS following an agreement between NHS trusts and latex manufacturers.
The two sides, along with latex allergy sufferers and campaigners, held a
summit in November, co-ordinated by the TUC.
They agreed new guidance should be drawn up and an education campaign
carried out to ensure that health sector employers only used latex gloves where
operationally required, and then only low-protein, powder-free ones.
Around 1,200 workers (including surgeons, nurses, dental technicians and
radiographers) develop latex allergies every year, usually by working regularly
with latex, and their reactions can range from asthma and dermatitis to
potentially fatal anaphylactic shock.
The TUC estimates that latex allergy costs UK employers, mostly the NHS,
more than £120m a year.
The development of the guidance and the educational tools will be co-ordinated
by the Health and Safety Executive, and will be launched early this year.
"This should mean latex allergies become a thing of the past in
healthcare, and the focus can move on to other sectors," said TUC senior
policy officer Owen Tudor.
Aleks Kinay, chair of the Latex Allergy Support Group, said: "This is
the first step to preventing more healthcare staff developing latex allergies
and going through immense physical and psychological suffering. No-one should
be forced to end their careers due to chronic illness."
In November, the High Court ruled that employers have a strict liability to
ensure their workers are protected from harmful substances such as latex.
Unions described the ruling as ‘groundbreaking’ as employers will no longer
be able to argue they did not know a substance was harmful.