The crisis over protective equipment in hospitals turned into farce today as a minister insisted “we will not run out” at the same time that doctors on London’s front line protested they do not have enough life-saving masks, gowns and visors.
A yawning gap between what politicians say and the experiences of medics risking their lives opened up as the minister for regional growth Simon Clarke was asked when Britain would run out of the personal protection equipment (PPE) issued to staff.
“Well, the short answer is we will not run out,” declared Mr Clarke who pointed to “almost a billion” pieces of PPE being handed out since the coronavirus pandemic broke out.
His description of the situation contrasted sharply with concerns expressed by London doctors. One medic said they feared being fatally infected with coronavirus at work.
Dr Katie Sanderson, a junior doctor at a London hospital [and DAUK committee member], told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “All of us are more or less worried about dying as a result of being infected with coronavirus at work.”
A survey by the Doctors’ Association UK found half of the capital’s medics were “concerned or very concerned” about the impact of the lack of PPE.
More than 1,100 doctors in 250 hospitals or care settings logged details of shortages on the association’s NHSppe app.
Of the London responses, 21 doctors — about one in four — said eye protection was not available for the highest-risk “aerosol generating procedures”, when a patient is likely to cough up secretions while being treated.
Some 39 doctors said they did not have long-sleeve gowns for these procedures, and this situation was getting worse.
Twenty-five — almost a third of respondents — said they did not have the highest protection FFP3 masks, though supply did seem to be improving.
Dr Rinesh Parmar, chairman of the Doctors’ Association UK, said: “We are hearing of shocking accounts of doctors on the frontline having no access to gowns and eye protection even when performing the most high-risk procedures.”