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BMA speaks out as healthcare workers still waiting for protective gear

Life-savers: Medical staff in protective gear take a patient off an ambulance at St Thomas’ hospital, London PICTURE: REUTERS

HEALTHCARE workers treating coronavirus patients should not have to risk their lives because they do not have adequate personal protection equipment, the British Medical Association has said.

The BMA called on ministers to ‘clarify’ what medics should be expected to do after concerns about PPE shortages, with nurses on some Covid-19 wards without vital masks and gowns.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick has said the government ‘cannot and should not ask people to be on the front line without the right protective equipment’. And on Monday, 2.5million aprons, 870,000 eye protectors, 218,000 respiratory masks, 1million surgical masks and 11million pairs of gloves were delivered to NHS trusts. But they have yet to reach many hospitals and GP practices.

Checkpoint: NHS staff are tested for Covid-19 on way to work PICTURE: REX

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries has apologised, admitting distribution had been ‘tricky at times’.

She said the Army had been called in to help. The BMA’s Dr Rob Harwood said: ‘We need clarity from the government on what it is that healthcare staff should do and, particularly, what risks they should not have to take if they do not have adequate PPE.

Join the queue: Drive-through testing station for NHS workers at Ikea in Wembley, north-west London PICTURE: REX

‘Doctors are placing themselves at significant risk by treating patients on the front line and there are concerns that sometimes this is without adequate PPE.

‘While the government has been letting us know that protection is on the way, there are still doctors and other NHS staff who today, tomorrow and in the coming week, may face the daunting prospect of having to consider treating patients without adequate protection.

Disinfected: The Emirates Air Line offices in central London PICTURE: EPA

‘A lack of adequate protection is not only dangerous, it may be fatal.’

Meanwhile, many care workers are still without masks or hand sanitiser, with just plastic aprons and gloves for protection. Unison’s Christina McAnea said: ‘Care workers are being treated as though their safety doesn’t matter. They feel forgotten about — at the bottom of the pile.’