AN NHS boss has told how he is “losing the will to live” after struggling to source protective equipment for staff, pleading: “God help us all.”
Alan Hoskins, chief officer of the Health Care Supply Association, spoke of his fears as more medics warned of life-threatening shortages.
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New clinical guidelines tell staff to wear a face mask, apron and gloves when coming within 1metre (3ft) of a potentially infected patient.
The stark advice applies to those offering general care but also those taking X-rays or blood samples, doing home visits and physios.
Even cleaners have been ordered to put on a mask when cleaning areas where diseased patients may have been.
The near-blanket use has seen the health service churn through personal protective equipment (PPE) at record rates.
'GOD HELP US ALL'
Mr Hoskins, whose organisation represents NHS procurement staff, wrote on Twitter: “What a day, no gowns NHS Supply Chain.nRang every number escalated to NHS England, just got message back — no stock, can’t help, can send you a PPE pack. Losing the will to live, god help us all.”
Gowns are proving particularly hard to come by because they were not included in the national pandemic stockpile of PPE.
They are instead coming from supplies built up for use in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the Health Service Journal reports.
Health minister Helen Whately yesterday said 170million items of PPE have been delivered to frontline workers. But Doctors Association UK insists staff are still not receiving the kit or it is not being restocked quickly enough.
Some members have resorted to buying scrubs on Amazon or have asked friends to knit them protective gear.
Others have sourced their own from local suppliers, who claim their offers to supply the government were ignored.
Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden, from DAUK, said: “Frontline NHS doctors, and indeed all clinicians, are putting their lives at risk every day they turn up to work.
“The news that manufacturers have offered their services to the government weeks ago but haven’t had an order will be devastating to doctors who have told us they feel they are being treated as expendable.
“Despite assurances on PPE from the government, doctors on the frontline are telling us everyday that the problem is far from fixed.At a time when the country is relying on frontline NHS staff this is unforgivable.”
Some doctors are claiming to be sick so they do not have to risk working on the frontline without PPE, while others are reportedly hoarding supplies.
One medic said: “All my colleagues are quite nervous – some people are going off sick because they don't feel safe.
“Others are seeking placement elsewhere so they are not frontline, again because of the lack of PPE.
“The closed WhatsApp groups are awash with fear, anger and confusion around the issues regarding PPE.”
'ANGER & CONFUSION'
Another said: “You wouldn't send a soldier out without the necessary equipment so why are healthcare professionals not being provided the adequate PPE?”
Dame Donna Kinnair, from the Royal College of Nursing, said it was “completely unacceptable” that some nurses have not got PPE.
She added: “I am hearing from nurses who are treating patients in Covid-19 wards without any protection at all.
“Every minute we wait is a minute too long. All nursing staff, no matter where they work, must feel safe.”
The GMB union described the shortages as a “national crisis” and warned more than 4,100 ambulance workers are self-isolating.
Some believe they caught the disease while working and are now leaving their colleagues overstretched while absent.
Rachel Harrison, from the union, added: “The lack of protective equipment for our frontline workers is nothing short of a national crisis and it’s going to bring services to the brink.”
X-Men actor James McAvoy has donated £275,000 to the crowdfunding initiative Masks for NHS Heroes in a “sign of support” to frontline staff.
The Public Health England guidelines say FFP3 respirator masks should be kept for procedures that can result in the release of airborne germs.
The World Health Organisation has warned that the “chronic” shortage of PPE is threatening “our collective ability to save lives”.
On Friday, WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “When health workers are at risk, we're all at risk.”
NHS England last week ordered an urgent review of national coronavirus PPE guidelines. It is expected to be published this week.
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