Many doctors are in an impossible position and have reported the rationing of gowns and visors… the rationing of PPE in this way may inadvertently lead to the spread of the infection to other patients, something that we are desperate to avoid.
-Dr Rinesh Parmar speaking to The Times
Excerpt from article:
NHS and care staff are scared they are carrying the virus from patient to patient in hospitals and homes
Hospital staff and care workers are “terrified” that they may be infecting patients and vulnerable care home residents with the coronavirus because they are having to work without sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE).
Britain faces a cross-contamination crisis, they warned, after medics were ordered to treat Covid-19 patients without waterproof full-length gowns if supplies ran out.
At least 50 NHS workers have died after contracting the virus.
Staff raised concerns that rationing and reuse of key PPE items — gowns in particular — as a result of a national shortage was raising the risk of them contracting the virus, passing it to others and worsening the epidemic.
Ministers said 55,000 gowns arrived on Friday, but they equate to about eight hours’ supply because the NHS is using 150,000 every day.
Yesterday the communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, promised 400,000 would arrive today, but dozens of NHS trusts still fear they will run out by tonight.
Some doctors with medical roles that take them to different departments said they were alarmed at being ordered to wear the same PPE throughout a shift. One feared they may “spread the virus” to cancer patients and sick children.
Ministers have been warned there is evidence that the infection is spreading in hospitals and care homes.
Whitehall officials fear the failure to adequately equip the health and social care workforce with PPE is derailing efforts to cut the rate of infection and deaths. Both goals are among the government’s five criteria to be met before the lockdown can be lifted.
Two officials said it could be July before the NHS had enough gowns to avoid staff having to reuse or work without them. More gowns made in China have been ordered but will take weeks to arrive.
More than 20 health and care workers spoke out about PPE, on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals by their managers. One said a promotion was retracted by their trust after they spoke out on social media about the shortages.
Another said: “I work in a high-risk area for Covid-19 patients — I also cover paediatric and oncology patients. I’ve been told that I have to wear the same gown all day. I’m terrified I’m going to spread the virus.”
Public Health England issued new guidance on Friday that said that if long-sleeved, fluid repellant gowns ran out, staff should simply wear coveralls with aprons, and wash their arms afterwards.
A doctor in the east of England said: “I can’t be sure that I’m not helping to transmit the virus from one patient to the next. Even though we are washing our hands, our clothes may be contaminated and spread it.”
Dr Rinesh Parmar, chairman of the Doctors’ Association UK, said: “Many doctors are in an impossible position and have reported the rationing of gowns and visors, with some having to wipe down items that would normally be for single use.
“There is an emerging concern and fear among doctors that the rationing of PPE in this way may inadvertently lead to the spread of the infection to other patients, something that we are desperate to avoid.”