UK News Coronavirus in the UK: Doctors lacking even most basic personal protective equipment, BMA warns
Coronavirus in the UK: Doctors beg patients and public for help with protective equipment
Exclusive: Medics are using social media to share tips on where to source equipment and some feel 'abandoned'Severe shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the NHS has left GPs and other medics having to resort to buying their own kit from DIY stores.
General Practitioners and community doctors are not being supplied with even basic equipment to stop them from being infected by the coronavirus, the British Medical Association has warned.
Official guidance states health workers should wear eye protection, such as goggles, if they are within one metre of patients suspected of carrying Covid-19.
But Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the BMA, said the pack of personal protective equipment delivered to GPs across the country provided them with just gloves, a face mask and a sleeveless apron.
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Flooded with concerns
Speaking to the Commons Health and Social Care Committee, Dr Nagpaul said his association had been “flooded” with concerns from doctors and frontline staff, who are worried about the lack of PPE they are being given, raising the risk of exposure to the disease.
The medic said there were issues with both the "adequacy and the supply" of PPE for NHS staff. He said the experience of ringing the NHS PPE hotline was for doctors to buy their own equipment.
"We are flooded with anxieties and concerns by doctors - it is the single biggest issue at the moment," he told MPs.
"Even this morning, I've had emails from doctors saying masks have run out, that they are having to wear them for longer than they should and so forth.
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See the latest stories on the coronavirus outbreak. The NHS has said it has enough protective clothing and equipment for doctors, nurses and other staff in part due to stockpiling during planning for a no-deal Brexit last year. NHS chief operating officer Amanda Pritchard said on Tuesday there was enough personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff but that distribution problems meant some hospitals were suffering shortages. It comes as doctorsThe NHS has said it has enough protective clothing and equipment for doctors, nurses and other staff in part due to stockpiling during planning for a no-deal Brexit last year.
"In general practice, when we ring up the helpline we are told to buy them ourselves - that is the advice we are getting."
Troops were continuing to deliver protective equipment to NHS staff working on the frontline (Photo: Leon Neal/Getty)
Dr Nagpaul added: "As a minimum, a healthcare worker should have their eyes protected, because we know these droplets can be absorbed through the mucus membranes of the eyes, and also to have a protective gown.
"We have neither of those in general practice, in the community, nor for that matter front line staff in A&E.”
The Government has come under heavy criticism from senior doctors over shortages of PPE, and has since inlisted the Army to help with distributing the much-needed kit.
MPs also heard that patients could be infected in hospital by frontline NHS staff who are carrying Covid-19 but do not show any symptoms.
Public Health England’s medical director Professor Yvonne Doyle said it was “theoretically possible” that doctors could be unwittingly spreading the disease in hospitals.
“This is something we are learning about, but in theory when they are incubating viruses they can be infectious,” she said.
It comes as pressure is growing on the Government to increase testing of NHS staff to ensure they are able to help with tackling the pandemic.
Prof Doyle said testing of NHS staff would not be available until mid-April.
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Shortages of protective kit for healthcare workers have prompted major concerns, with experts warning it has left some on the front line 'without the armour they need to defend themselves'.Shortages of protective kit for healthcare workers have prompted major concerns, with experts warning it has left some on the front line 'without the armour they need to defend themselves'.