The delivery of ‘millions’ of masks, gloves, eye protectors and gowns is ‘underway’.
Healthcare unions are continuing to put pressure on the Government over the inadequate provision of personal protective equipment (PPE).
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) claims that some healthcare workers are being forced to care for patients on specialist COVID-19 wards “without any protection at all” – putting themselves and their families at risk.
While the British Medical Association (BMA) is seeking clarity from the Government on what it is that healthcare staff should do and, particularly, what risks they should not have to take if they do not have adequate personal protective equipment.
This follows comments from the Communities Secretary, Robert Jenrick, who said that “we cannot and should not ask healthcare workers to be on the frontline without appropriate protective equipment”, as he confirmed that the delivery of ‘millions’ of masks, gloves, eye protectors and gowns was already underway.
We need action, we need equipment, we need it now.
Dame Donna Kinnair, RCN Chief Executive and General Secretary, said: “The government is finally prioritising Covid-19 testing for NHS staff, including social care, but it is completely unacceptable that weeks into this crisis, there are colleagues in all settings – hospitals, community or care homes – who have not been provided with personal protective equipment.
“I am hearing from nurses who are treating patients in Covid-19 wards without any protection at all. This cannot continue. They are putting themselves, their families, and their patients at risk.
“As the professional trade union representing potentially the largest group of affected workers, the RCN has said repeatedly that we will not accept anything less than aprons, gloves and masks for all staff, in all settings. But this is a minimum – and that is why we are so disappointed even that level of protection has yet to be provided.
“Every minute we wait is a minute too long. All nursing staff, no matter where they work, must feel safe. We need action, we need equipment, we need it now.”
A lack of adequate protection could be fatal.
Commenting on the threat that frontline staff face, BMA consultants committee chair Dr Rob Harwood, said: “We need clarity from the Government on what it is that healthcare staff should do and, particularly, what risks they should not have to take if they do not have adequate PPE, if they should find themselves in this situation.
“This is about the safety of patients and doctors first and foremost. Doctors are placing themselves at significant risk by treating patients on the frontline and there are concerns that sometimes this is without adequate PPE.
“While the Government has been forthcoming in letting us know that protection is on the way, there are still doctors and other NHS staff who today, tomorrow and in the coming week, may face the daunting prospect of having to consider treating patients without adequate protection.
“Having seen the tragic deaths of medics in Italy and now closer to home here in the UK, doctors and NHS staff have every right to be concerned, knowing that a lack of adequate protection is not only dangerous, it may be fatal.”