Frustration as care workers and community nurses still lack protective gear

Cheryl Sanders
April 1, 2020

Hospital staff are hiding personal protective equipment (PPE) as shortages sting on the front line of the NHS, according to doctors. Many health professionals are anxious that they may contract the virus during the course of their work, especially if their PPE is inadequate, and pass it on to patients or their families.

It comes after HSCA chief officer Alan Hoskins wrote in a tweet, which has since been deleted: "What a day no gowns @NHSSupplyChain rang every number escalated to NHSE just got message back no stock can't help can send you a ppe pack losing the will to live god help us all". All nursing staff, no matter where they work, must feel safe.

But, quoting communities secretary Robert Jenrick, who said on Sunday that "we can not and should not ask healthcare workers to be on the frontline without appropriate protective equipment", the BMA has urgently sought clarification on the current guidance.

Doctors' Association UK (DAUK) said that NHS staff "should not be gagged" after reports were published of staff being ordered not to speak to the media over concerns about personal protective equipment (PPE).

"As the professional trade union representing potentially the largest group of affected workers, the RCN has said repeatedly that we will not accept anything less than aprons, gloves and masks for all staff, in all settings".

"Staff shortages make this even harder, and clearly there should be full protection available for staff and residents, for the sake of everyone's health".

Global shortages of medical and healthcare equipment needed to protect against Covid-19 have resulted in shortages in the UK.

But numerous medical staff including doctors and nurses have expressed serious concerns about a lack of PPE in NHS hospitals. Only after managers complained and two more cases were confirmed were more staff measured up for the PPE equipment, she added.

Some workers are saying they are sick as they fear the provisions are inadequate, another said.

"Our nurse was walking around the ward yesterday with a sleep mask over her face - an eye mask over her nose and mouth as a makeshift mask".

"I am hearing from nurses who are treating patients in Covid-19 wards without any protection at all".

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, nearly 10 million items of cleaning equipment and 2.3 million pairs of eye protectors were being delivered to frontline staff.

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

A lack of adequate protection could be fatal.


E tū Director Kirsty McCully says that while this is a good first step towards ensuring all care workers are protected, more needs to be done.

The union said that it is "unacceptable" that weeks into the crisis some nurses are yet to be provided with the necessary PPE.

"I regularly see 20 or more clients a day and, like me, they want to know we are protected as much as possible from spreading this terrible virus". In the meantime, in the absence of appropriate PPE, we support practices in adopting a NO PPE, NO SEE policy and not conducting any face to face consultations without appropriate PPE'. They said she did not need a mask because she was not in contact with Covid patients but so many patients are asymptomatic.

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