A NURSE who was asked to share protective face masks with her colleagues has attacked the government for not doing more to prepare Britain for the coronavirus crisis.
Manchester intensive care nurse Lorraine Jones revealed that on Tuesday her manager had asked staff to share masks as well as filters.
‘Filters have got bacteria in them, masks have got bacteria in them, these things do not get sterilised like you would your operating equipment,’ she told ITV’s Good Morning Britain yesterday.
Ms Jones said the message had been passed on with a ‘sincere apology’ because her hospital ‘does not have the equipment’.
She spoke out following reports that another intensive care nurse, in south London, had taken her own life.
Colleagues battled to save the woman, in her 20s, when she was found unconscious on Monday at King’s College Hospital in Denmark Hill, where eight patients have died from coronavirus.
Ms Jones said NHS staff were heading into a ‘war zone’. She added: ‘This is definitely something I hope we will never have to experience… ever again. But if we do I would hope that we are more prepared. We are frightened, of course we’re frightened, but we’re still walking through those doors.
‘Because this is why we came into this job, as nurses and as doctors and as healthcare workers, porters, cleaning staff. None of us are shying away from this. But I cannot understand why I had to, and my colleagues had to, receive that message when we are just going into this tsunami.’
Stressing that hospital bosses where she works had done ‘everything in their power’ to protect and train their staff, Ms Jones said they were being let down by the government and health secretary Matt Hancock.
‘Matt Hancock and this government have had four months to prepare for this,’ she pointed out. ‘China didn’t have four months, they had less than a week.’
Responding to comments from NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson that there had been a problem with distribution, she added: ‘Four months, yet I can have something ordered and delivered the next day from Amazon.’
On Tuesday, Mr Hancock announced 7.5million pieces of protective equipment, including face masks, had been shipped out to frontline workers the previous day. He also said a hotline had been set up which staff can call if they are running low on supplies.
A health department spokesman said the government was working around the clock to give the social care sector and wider NHS the equipment and support they need to tackle this outbreak.
He added: ‘We have delivered millions more items of personal protective equipment for frontline staff at care homes, home care providers and hospices as well as to hospitals, ambulance trusts, GP practices and pharmacists.’
Last night Britain’s chief medical officer urged caution over reports that a ‘game-changer’ home test for coronavirus could be available to millions within weeks. Prof Chris Whitty insisted NHS staff and other key workers would be first in the queue — but only once it had been established that the tests were safe and accurate.
He dismissed earlier claims by Public Health England that antibody tests revealing whether someone has had Covid-19 could be available on the high street in a matter of days.
He added: ‘I do not think, and I want to be clear, that this is something that we’ll suddenly be ordering on the internet next week.’