NHS staff ‘thrown to the wolves’ as protective gear runs low

By BLOOMBERG / Pic AFP

LONDON • The UK risks running out of protective equipment for its hospital staff as half the doctors working in high-risk areas reported supply shortages in a survey by the British Medical Association (BMA).

Long-sleeved disposable gowns and goggles are in low supply for National Health Service (NHS) staff working at some of the most at-risk hospitals in the UK, a report by the association said. In a survey of 6,000 respondents, two-thirds said they faced shortages or no eye protection at all, and nearly half said they felt pressure often or sometimes to work without adequate protection.

Doctors told the association that they were being “thrown to the wolves” and

should not be forced to choose between continuing working or keeping themselves and their families safe. The snapshot survey comes after reports that several NHS staff have lost their lives to the virus.

“Two months into the Covid-19 crisis in Britain, we shouldn’t still be hearing that doctors feel unprotected when they go to work,” BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul said in a statement on Saturday. “We renew our call for the government to work with manufacturers to ramp up domestic supply. Too many doctors and health- care staff have already lost their lives. We cannot afford to risk losing any more.”

The UK reported 888 new coronavirus deaths on Saturday (at press time), taking the total to more than 15,000. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK has exceeded 114,000. The Department for Health advised NHS staff to reuse protective equipment if necessary and wear aprons if gowns run out.

The UK government announced on Saturday that a large consignment of protective equipment was expected to arrive from Turkey yesterday, including 400,000 gowns for NHS staff. It has sufficient supply of ventilators and face masks, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said at a press conference.