More than 10,000 frontline NHS staff have written to the Prime Minister to demand proper protective equipment amid growing anger that a lack of supplies is putting lives at risk.
Jenny Harries, the deputy chief medical officer, last night admitted there had been ‘distribution issues’ but insisted the UK had enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to cope with the pandemic.
Millions of masks, gloves, aprons and other items were delivered to hospitals on Monday, the Government said, with the Army helping to get them out nationwide.
Import taxes on such clothing, ventilators and virus testing kits have also been waived to ease supply, the Chancellor said.
Nurses clean their hands before taking swabs at a Covid-19 Drive-Through testing station for NHS staff on March 30, in Chessington, UK
But, despite this, unions representing healthcare workers say their members are complaining in droves about shortages of safety equipment. The GMB said some social care staff were being expected to make visits with just a plastic apron and a pair of gloves – ‘the same protection that they use to make a sandwich.’
The letter to Boris Johnson has been co-ordinated by EveryDoctor, a membership organisation of UK doctors which campaigns on safety in the NHS.
It says NHS guidelines on what medics should wear to treat Covid-19 patients are not stringent enough and should be brought into line with World Health Organisation recommendations. The statement has been signed by more than 20,000 medics, including 10,000 who work in the NHS, in less than two days.
A member of hospital staff wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) outside St Thomas’ Hospital in Westminster, London as the UK continues in lockdown
Total number of cases and deaths from Covid-19 as the UK sees a spike in deaths on March 31
A senior nurse yesterday told the Daily Mail community hospital staff had been left as ‘sitting ducks’ for coronavirus because of a lack of specialist masks and goggles.
The healthcare worker, who has more than 20 years’ experience, said she was forced to take blood from a suspected Covid-19 patient, who later tested positive, at the community hospital in North Wales where she works, with just a ‘flimsy’ paper mask and gloves. Only after managers complained and two more cases were confirmed were more staff measured up for the PPE equipment, she added.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: ‘The full weight of the Government is behind the PPE effort with PPE being sent out 24 hours a day and the Army helping with deliveries.’
A Royal Mint employee checks the fit of a full face visor where workers, who usually mint coins at the Royal Mint, Llantrisant, Wales, are now making face visors for the NHS