Coronavirus UK: NHS doctors will die without proper protective equipment, experts warn

26 March 2020, 08:42

NHS staff have been given guidance on PPE
NHS staff have been given guidance on PPE. Picture: PA

By Tobi Akingbade

Doctors and patients will die without adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) across the NHS, the British Medical Association (BMA) has warned.

The BMA said doctors are risking serious illness and death due to a lack of equipment, and it warned many more could go off sick unless immediate steps are taken during the coronavirus crisis.

It said, despite Government assurances, there is "growing evidence that thousands of GPs and hospital staff are still not being provided with the kit they need to properly protect themselves and their patients".

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said millions of pieces of PPE have been sent out in recent days and a hotline has been set up so staff can report where there are shortages.

The Government's Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Jenny Harries also insisted on Wednesday there is enough PPE available for all.

But the BMA said it has heard accounts of no stock, very small amounts of PPE, rationing and kit that does not offer sufficient protection.

Under NHS guidance issued on Friday, any healthcare worker within a metre of a patient with possible or confirmed Covid-19 should wear a fluid repellent face mask, apron, gloves and eye protection if there is a risk of splashing.

For those who are at risk due to "aerosol generating procedures", such as putting patients on ventilators, suctioning and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), they should wear an FFP3 respirator, a long-sleeved disposable gown, gloves and eye protection such as disposable goggles or full-face visor.

But the BMA said this did not meet recommendations from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

BMA council chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: "A construction worker wouldn't be allowed to work without a hard hat and proper boots.

"Even a bee-keeper wouldn't inspect a hive without proper protective clothing.

"And yet this Government expects NHS staff to put themselves at risk of serious illness, or even death, by treating highly infectious Covid-19 patients without wearing proper protection. This is totally unacceptable.

"We are told that lorries are shipping hundreds of boxes of supplies of PPE to GPs and to hospitals, but that isn't the reality for thousands of our members.

"The type of PPE being supplied is not in keeping with World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations.

"GPs in many parts of England have been told to go and buy their own stocks, only to find none is available.

"In Cumbria, GP practice staff went to Wickes to try and secure masks."

This comes as Mr Hancock said a total of 560,000 members of the public have now answered the Government's call for volunteers to aid the NHS.

Mr Hancock tweeted: "NEWS: Fantastic that 560,000 people have now responded to our call to volunteer to support our NHS to defeat #Coronavirus."