MEDICS are having to make do with bin liners and buckets of disinfectant for protection while treating patients struck down by Covid-19.
And items intended as single-use because of contamination risk are being washed and put back on as doctors are forced to turn to ‘DIY PPE’, a report by the British Medical Association reveals.
One trainee anaesthetist in Scotland told the BMA: ‘We’re having to wash visors in disinfectant because we don’t have enough. We ran out of hand gel briefly and were provided with a bucket of steriliser to dip our hands in.’
A GP from Berkshire said he was relying on a local amateur dramatic society for protective clothing, and was wearing pairs of safety glasses left over from Britain’s 2009 swine flu epidemic, which his surgery has to wash and re-use.
‘We are unable to get basic PPE apart from aprons and gloves,’ he said. ‘Some surgical masks, no eye protection.’
A junior doctor in the north-east said: ‘After the death of two of our nursing colleagues on the same day, the trust announced that gowns would no longer be amply provided and we had to ration the remaining supplies. We decided to let our nurses and healthcare assistants have priority with the gowns, as they have more patient contact time. As the gowns completely ran out, some staff used bin bags instead.’
An obstetrics trainee in the south-east said colleagues had been buying their own safety equipment. ‘PPE is in short supply and often locked away,’ they said. ‘We have bought more than £4,000 worth over the last four weeks as a group of trainees.’
Last month, Downing Street claimed that the UK had a ‘perfectly adequate’ supply of PPE.
Yesterday, it said almost 1billion items had been delivered to healthcare workers since the start of the crisis.
Yet Public Health England is now proposing authorising the use of ‘building’ or ‘sportswear’ protection as a ‘last resort alternative’ amid a ‘reduced ability to re-supply’. And a YouGov survey revealed more than 70 per cent of health workers feel the government is not doing enough to protect them by providing adequate equipment and testing.
The BMA’s Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘The government must be honest about supplies. These distressing accounts show that some hospitals and practices across the country are still reporting critical shortages and the worrying lengths they are being forced to go to in dealing with this.’ The care sector is even worse affected, with work and pensions minister Theresa Coffey admitting on Tuesday that fewer than five per cent of PPE deliveries have been to care homes.
A caller told LBC she was having to wear her mask and goggles from when she was a swimming instructor in her new role as an independent living carer in Hampshire.
‘We have no PPE whatsoever,’ she told the radio station. ‘If the person I’m caring for gets sick, then I have to decide if I abandon her or risk my own life.’ At yesterday’s No.10 briefing, health secretary Matt Hancock, flanked by chief medical officer Chris Whitty, and chief scientific adviser Dame Angela McLean, pledged to introduce ‘priority drops’ of PPE for carers.