Thousands of doctors have pleaded with Boris Johnson to “protect the lives of the life-savers” fighting the coronavirus pandemic by resolving the “unacceptable” shortage of personal protective equipment.
In an open letter [co-ordinated by the Doctors’ Association UK, published in The Sunday Times, medics and other NHS staff urged the prime minister to take “immediate” action to ensure they all have protective masks, glasses, gloves, aprons and suits.
Many are “putting their lives on the line every day” by treating infected patients without the equipment needed to shield them from the virus.
As a result, staff feel like “cannon fodder”, Johnson was told. Some intensive care doctors are battling to save the most critically ill Covid-19 patients while wearing masks that expired five years ago.
NHS staff not working in intensive care units are also being put at increased risk of infection because people are stealing hand gel from the end of patients’ beds, which is not always replaced.
GPs, who are seeing an influx of people with virus symptoms entering their surgeries despite national guidelines to stay away, say they feel “abandoned”. Ambulance workers have also reported turning up for shifts to find no hand sanitiser, face masks or wipes.
Without immediate action, the doctors warned, “the public will be endangered and dedicated NHS staff could lose their lives”.
This weekend, more than 4,000 doctors from across the UK had signed the letter.
Among the signatories were Dr Rob Hendry, medical director of the Medical Protection Society, Dr Margaret Stark, president of the Faculty of Forensic & Legal Medicine, and Dr Fiona Godlee, editor-in-chief of The British Medical Journal.
The letter, co-ordinated by the Doctors’ Association UK, a group that supports frontline NHS medics, said: “Frontline doctors have been telling us for weeks that they do not feel safe at work.”