My apologies to the parents of children who require regular suctioning at school, that I have not recently updated you as to where we are up to in enabling these children to return to school.
Initially, regular suctioning of children was deemed by Public Health England (PHE) to be an aerosol generating procedure. Therefore, these children were not permitted to return to school as if anyone of them did have COVID, there would be very substantial risk to others of airborne infection.
In order to address this, Birmingham City Council (BCC) commissioned Acivico to source and install "Pods", one per child, which could be used to carry out suctions, exclusively for one child only, thus removing the risk of infection. At Victoria School, we have 13 children requiring regular suctioning.
Two pods were delivered. However, these have not been installed as the government subsequently changed its definition of what constituted an AGP and advised that children requiring suctioning could be suctioned in their classroom as long as they were 2 metres distant from other children and staff and they were by an open window.
However, Birmingham Complex Care and the NHS School Nursing Service directed schools not to return these children to school until they could be assured that it was safe for the children and others in the school environment, for the suctioning to take place in the manner described. We are still awaiting confirmation from these two bodies that it would be safe for these children to return to school.
Two as yet unanswered questions are whether the space used has to be cleaned after use and whether it is safe for other users of the classroom to enter the space within an hour after the suctioning has taken place.
In the Multi-Sensory Impairment (MSI) Unit, we do not have sufficient windows to enable the conditions to be met. However, MSI does have use of a smaller adjacent room that has a COVID-safe certificate for use by one MSI pupil per day to be suctioned there.
I will keep you updated as further information is received.