NHS staff plead for more protection gear as they say it's 'inevitable' they will get Covid-19

30 March 2020, 11:21

NHS workers are having to hide protective gear to ensure they are protected
NHS workers are having to hide protective gear to ensure they are protected. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

NHS staff are stashing away personal protective equipment as shortages threaten their own health, medics claim.

Doctors working on the frontline to fight the battles against coronavirus have now come forward to express their concerns about the lack of PPE in NHS hospitals, with one saying it is "inevitable" they will get sick without adequate protection.

The junior doctor from Norfolk - who wished to remain anonymous - said : "There's not enough, there's nowhere near enough.

"There is such a shortage, so we feel like it's inevitable we're going to get sick. Infection control tells you one thing, the government are advising another thing, there's so much conflicting advice."

Others have said they have resorted to calling in sick to avoid putting themselves at unnecessary levels of risk.

Another doctor said staff at one hospital have taken to "hiding" equipment out of sheer desperation.

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The government are trying to ensure staff have enough protective equipment, by many are saying it still isn's enough
The government are trying to ensure staff have enough protective equipment, by many are saying it still isn's enough. Picture: PA

The obstetrician working in a hospital in London said protective gear is being kept under lock and key by senior staff.

Another doctor compared the situation to sending a soldier to war without the necessary equipment.

"There is some, but now we're in a situation where people are having to hide them and store them for their own staff.

"Our bosses are having to store a certain number.

"We are working in a hospital where there are key workers - including orderlies, porters, healthcare assistant - they have a right to be protected too.

"Our orderly was walking around the ward yesterday with a sleep mask over her face - an eye mask over her nose and mouth as a make-shift mask. They've said she doesn't need a mask because she's not in contact with Covid patients but so many patients are asymptomatic. We should be managing patients as though everybody has it."

She added: "There is not enough kit. PPE is locked away in our hospital and only one person has got the key because people are panicking. So, some people are going in and grabbing some of the stuff because they want to walk around with a mask.

Frontline NHS staff have only just started to be tested
Frontline NHS staff have only just started to be tested. Picture: PA

"What people are doing is they are hiding them because they don't want just anyone grabbing the kit, so the bottom line is there is not enough kit.

"[It is] out of sheer desperation, there is just not enough."

And staff are being made to come in and work with Covid-19 patients, despite sounding the alarm that they themselves are at risk.

Derek made an emotional call to LBC's Nick Ferrari, saying his 22-week pregnant wife is dealing with the outbreak with little to no PPE.

She usually works in radiology, but Derek said she has been redeployed to the ICU and wherever else their skills are needed.

"My wife's a doctor for the NHS in a hospital and she's pregnant and she took the advice not to come into to work," he said.

"And then she starts getting emails from management, so people who are not clinically trained. Occupational Health have told her there's no risk to you, come to work.

"Then she speaks to colleagues who are there and they're telling her don't come in.

"And I feel upset about it because they don't care, she's putting her life at risk and these managers don't care.

'They don't care about the NHS staff they only want to look good to the government, they want to show that they're doing something and they're not doing anything.

"There's no equipment there for these people.

"They've just got their plastic white aprons, there's a shortage of gloves. Some have been told to go to Euro car park and buy from there.

"Its a disgrace. It's an absolute disgrace.

"She has sent them numerous emails saying I wont do this, and they've told her that if she wont come in then she will be on maternity pay.

"The management are horrific, they are people managers with no clinical experience. All on huge salaries and they do not care about the NHS staff on the frontline."

Husband breaks down over worry for his pregnant doctor wife

Global shortages of the equipment medics and carers need to protect themselves against Covid-19 have led to shortfalls in the UK.

The World Health Organisation has warned that the "chronic" shortage of PPE is threatening "our collective ability to save lives".

On Friday, WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: "When health workers are at risk, we're all at risk.

In Italy, which has seen the highest number of deaths from Covid-19 on the planet, has so far had more than 50 deaths of doctors.

British Medical Association council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said UK doctors have watched the situation "with trepidation and horror".

"We have heard Italy’s doctors raise concerns about a lack of personal protective equipment – and now we see the grave impact this has had," he said.

“Here in the UK, we continue to hear from doctors in hospitals and GP practices, where there is either nowhere near enough PPE, equipment is rationed, or the standard of kit is below what’s needed. This is an unacceptable risk to the health and lives of both doctors and patients.

Robert Jenrick says millions of PPE items have been delivered, but is it enough?
Robert Jenrick says millions of PPE items have been delivered, but is it enough? Picture: PA

“The BMA has been unequivocal in its warnings about PPE: without a proper supply and adequate protection, doctors will become infected and ill, and some will die.

“We are told we are weeks away from facing the same situation as Italy, and this must serve as an urgent warning to our nation and health service. We must learn from others. We have no time to waste and the Government must act now.”"

The Department of Health and Social Care said it has issued millions of pieces of equipment and set up a national helpline so those in need can ask for more.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick told a Downing Street briefing on Sunday that 170 million masks, some 42.8 million gloves, 13.7 million aprons, 182,000 gowns, almost 10 million items of cleaning equipment and 2.3 million pairs of eye protectors were being delivered to frontline staff.

He said: "Every single GP practice, dental practice and community pharmacy has had a PPE delivery. All care homes, hospices, and home care providers have, or will shortly, receive a delivery."