Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Testing for Carers

In order to prevent the spread of coronavirus and limit the risk of infection, more help is available with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) - PPE includes alcohol hand gel, a gown, a visor or goggles, and a special kind of face mask called a respirator. PPE is now available to unpaid carers across Scotland who need it. 

Do all carers now need to use PPE? 

No. Not all caring situations will require the use of PPE and there is no need to begin to use it, unless you fall within one of the categories listed below. Priority is being given to carers who need PPE because their circumstances put them, or the person that they care for, at higher risk from coronavirus.

Face Coverings 

A face covering must be worn by all people in a wide range of settings including in supermarkets, shops, offices and public transport except where an exemption applies or where there is a ‘reasonable excuse’ not to wear a face covering. A face covering can be a covering of any type, except a face shield, that covers the mouth and nose.

You may have a reasonable excuse if you are providing care for someone with a health condition or disability, and a face covering would be inappropriate because it would cause difficulty, pain or severe distress or anxiety to the wearer of the person in the care of the wearer.

Read more face covering advice from the Scottish Government.

Who will be able to access PPE? 

PPE will be available to carers providing personal care, such as washing and dressing, in cases where they are unable to access it through their normal routes. Carers should read the Scottish Government advice for unpaid carers providing personal care to find out if they should be wearing PPE and which type of PPE they require for their situation.

In addition, priority may be given if carers, or the people they care for, are in the following categories (please note these are listed alphabetically and not by priority level):

  •  caring situations where either the carer or the person with care needs is shielded
  •  higher risk groups such as over 70s
  •  those with symptoms of coronavirus
  •  where the carer is working outside of the home

How do I access PPE? 

Using the Scottish Government advice as a guide, if you require PPE and can’t get it through your normal routes you will be able to access it through your local carers centre. You can find your local carers centre on Care Information Scotland website.

If your local carers centre is unavailable and you cannot wait until it reopens, you can call the NHS National Services Scotland (NSS) Social Care PPE Support Centre on 0300 303 3020.

What should I expect if I request PPE? 

When you make contact with the carers centre or PPE support centre, you should expect to be asked a number of questions to establish your eligibility and level of priority. 

Questions are likely to cover things such as the type of care you provide and how often. For example, if you are providing personal care you will be asked how many sets of PPE you are likely to use. You may also be asked questions on whether or not you are able to travel to pick-up supplies of PPE from a local hub.

Your local carers centre will then guide you as to what happens next, based on how they are managing things locally and your own circumstances.

What PPE do I need? 

Whether you need to use PPE, and the type of PPE that you need to use, will depend on your unique caring situation. For example, if you usually wear an apron and gloves in order to carry out personal care, then you should continue to do so. If you, or the person you care for, is within the shielded group, or has the symptoms of coronavirus, you may also be required to wear a mask. You should read the Scottish Government advice and your local carers centre will be able to help you with understanding what you need to wear and when.

I can still get PPE in the way I normally do, do I now need to order through my local carers centre instead?

No, if you are still able to access affordable PPE that you require through your normal supply routes, or if you already have a stock, then you should continue to use it. It may be that you have a stock of gloves and aprons but you now need masks. If so, you can access them through your local carers centre.

How do I know if I am using PPE correctly? 

Using PPE for the first time, or using items you are not familiar with, can sometimes be confusing. Follow instructions provided with any PPE that you're using. You might find this video below by Health Protection Scotland useful.


It might also be useful to remind yourself of the general advice on infection control and good hand hygiene on the NHS Inform website.

Access to COVID-19 Testing for Unpaid Carers

Unpaid carers can access testing for COVID-19; and there is support available to those who require care if a carer is unable to provide essential care for someone due to suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

Accessing Testing

The Scottish Government website confirms that unpaid carers are included with the priority group of key workers who are able to access testing. Unpaid carers are specifically mentioned within priority group 4:

Staff and volunteers in third or public sector organisations including unpaid carers, and staff in nationally or locally significant industry important to economic sustainability and growth.

The NHS Inform website includes information on the symptoms to look out for (that is a new continuous cough and / or fever / high temperature and/or loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste), isolation guidance to follow if symptoms develop, as well as a simple and easy to use guide to help determine if testing would be appropriate. Within this guide unpaid carers should select the answer to each question that is most appropriate to them, but this could include:

  • Question 1: Have your symptoms appeared in the last 5 days?
  • Question 2: Which of the following applies to you? Options include:
    • Key worker or household member of a key worker
    • Over 65 years old or live with someone aged 65 or over 
  • Question 3: Which kind of key worker category applies to you or your household member?
    • Select: Priority group 4

Unpaid carers who have developed symptoms in the last 5 days will then be directed to the self-referral portal of the UK testing programme. Individuals will be asked to confirm that they qualify as a key worker and should select ‘OK, I qualify’ and when asked to select occupation, should select ‘volunteer’.

For those who do not have internet access, tests can be booked by calling the national helpline number on 0300 303 2713. Carers should select the option for Scotland, and wait to hear options for help required. A test will then be manually booked at the appropriate test site by helpline staff. Once the test has been booked a unique code will be issued via text message or email, which should be taken to the agreed test site.

Those who are eligible will then select which testing option is most suitable for them. They will be offered the option to order a home testing kit (if available as demand is very high and supply is currently limited) or to attend one of the drive through testing sites. The locations offered will be based on the postcode entered. Drive through sites are located at:

  • Glasgow Airport
  • Edinburgh Airport
  • Aberdeen Airport
  • Inverness – University of the Highlands and Islands campus
  • Perth – University of the Highlands and Islands campus

In addition there are 12 mobile testing units which move around the country.

Results from the UK tests are sent by the individual via text message and should be received within 72 hours.

Alternative Care Package

If carers, family and friends are unable to provide essential care for someone due to suspected or confirmed COVID-19, or any other reason, they should contact their local social work department. Find the social work department contact details for your local authority.

Carers who do not already have an emergency plan in place may also want to talk with family and friends about who could take over their caring role if they become ill or need to self-isolate – particularly while social work services are under additional pressure during the coronavirus outbreak.

Local carer centres are also able to support carers with the preparation of an emergency plan. It will also be important to make sure that you have key information about the person you care for easily available - so that anyone taking over their care has all the information they need

You can find your local carers centre and seek assistance.

Where can I go for more information? 

Full advice for unpaid carers providing personal care, including information on when to wear PPE, is available on the Scottish Government website.

You can also find more information and resources from Young Scot for young people about coronavirus (COVID-19).