DAUK writes for The Sunday Times: without protection, NHS staff are cannon fodder

This letter was co-ordinated by the Doctors’ Association UK who advocate for frontline doctors. As of Sunday 22nd March the letter had garnered 6300 signatures.

We are 3,963 frontline NHS staff who are pleading with the prime minister to intervene to ensure we have adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) when facing the Covid-19 pandemic.

Frontline doctors have been telling us for weeks that they do not feel safe at work. Intensive care doctors and anaesthetists have told us they have been carrying out the highest-risk procedure, putting a patient on a ventilator, with masks that expired in 2015. Paediatricians have told us their stock of protective glasses and masks will run out in 48 hours, including in special-care baby units.

An acute medical doctor reported the stock of masks had already run out at one trust last weekend. GPs have told us they feel abandoned; many have been left without any protection for weeks and do not even have simple masks to protect them if a patient comes in with symptoms of Covid-19.

This is unacceptable. NHS staff are putting their lives on the line every day they turn up to work. The reality is that many of us will get sick. Doctors are all too aware of the possibility that they will lose colleagues, as has happened in outbreaks around the world. It is therefore deeply upsetting to hear dedicated healthcare professionals say they feel like “cannon fodder”.

NHS England has stated that the national supply of PPE has been “adequate” and any shortage is a local distribution issue. While this may be the case, it is not encouraging to see NHS England passing the buck.

We want to see action immediately. The supply of PPE in the coming weeks must be stepped up as we see a surge in cases. If it is not, the public will be endangered and dedicated NHS staff could lose their lives. It is time for the prime minister to demonstrate his commitment to the NHS and protect the lives of the life-savers.