FRONT-LINE medical staff are heading to work like ‘lambs to the slaughter’ because of a lack of face masks and other protective equipment, the Doctors’ Association has warned.
Chairman Dr Rinesh Parmar said medics risked spreading coronavirus themselves as nearly 4,000 signed an open letter demanding immediate action.
It came as a consultant and a nurse at hospitals in the Midlands were left fighting for their lives in intensive care after contracting the disease.
‘We’ve had doctors tell us they feel like lambs to the slaughter, that they feel like cannon fodder, and GPs who feel absolutely abandoned,’ Dr Parmar told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. ‘We must stress to the prime minister that we need to protect the front line here.’ An open letter yesterday demanded the PM ‘demonstrate his commitment to the NHS and protect the lives of life-savers’.
Medics claim intensive care staff have been carrying out the highest-risk work with masks five years out of date, and that some GPs have been left without any protection at all for weeks.
‘We are pleading with the prime minister to intervene to ensure we have adequate personal protective equipment (PPE),’ they wrote. ‘The reality is that many of us will get sick.
‘Doctors are all too aware of the possibility that they will lose colleagues.
‘It is therefore deeply upsetting to hear dedicated healthcare professionals say they feel like “cannon fodder”.’
Nurse Areema Nasreen, 36, is on a ventilator in critical condition at Walsall Manor Hospital in the West Midlands. The mother-of-three fell ill around ten days ago and was admitted after her condition worsened. Both she and the infected consultant are believed to have contracted the disease during routine treatment with patients. The previously ‘fit and healthy’ 52-year-old Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist is being kept alive on a life-support system.
Mark Watson, of the British Laryngological Association, warned that ENT specialists are particularly susceptible. ‘We have two examples of severe infection within the UK and two ENT consultants required intensive care unit admission this week,’ he wrote.
Last week deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries told a Downing Street press conference that the country has a ‘perfectly adequate supply of PPE at the moment’. She said: ‘There have been some differential deliveries in some areas. That is completely resolved now.’ But Dr Lisa Anderson, a consultant cardiologist at St George’s Hospital, London said that was ‘absolutely not’ true.
She told the programme: ‘They are working for many hours at a time in wards with absolutely minimal protection — paper mask, short gloves and a little halterneck apron.’
And she warned that a lack of testing means medics are having to self-isolate at home for two weeks if family members show symptoms — even if the symptoms turn out to be a common cold.
‘It’s an absolutely nonsensical situation,’ she said. ‘This is not just about the risk to us and our families.
‘We are travelling home on the Tube, on buses. We are cross-infecting everybody at the moment.’
Communities secretary Robert Jenrick insisted ‘good progress’ was being made on supplying equipment to GPs and pharmacists as well as hospitals.
‘We’re manufacturing and importing them in vast quantities,’ he said. ‘In recent days for instance we’ve taken receipt of almost three million face masks so PPE will get to the front line as soon as possible.’