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30th March 2020

Coronavirus: Hospital staff 'hiding' protective equipment due to NHS shortages, say medics

BY: Sky News

Hospital staff are hiding personal protective equipment (PPE) during the coronavirus outbreak due to shortages on the NHS frontline, medics have claimed.

Some workers are said to be going off sick because they fear the provisions are inadequate - with one doctor saying it seems "inevitable" they will contract COVID-19.

Global shortages of the equipment medics and carers need to protect themselves against the virus have led to shortfalls in the UK.

Several medics have now come forward to express concerns about a lack of PPE in NHS hospitals.

It comes after Dr Amged El-Hawrani became the first frontline hospital worker in the UK to die after contracting coronavirus.

One doctor said staff at a hospital have taken to "hiding" equipment out of sheer desperation.

The obstetrician, who works in a London hospital and chose to speak anonymously, said protective gear is being kept under lock and key by senior staff.

"Our orderly was walking around the ward yesterday with a sleep mask over her face - an eye mask over her nose and mouth as a make-shift mask," she said.

"PPE is locked away in our hospital and only one person has got the key because people are panicking.

"So, some people are going in and grabbing some of the stuff because they want to walk around with a mask.

"[It is] out of sheer desperation, there is just not enough."

Another frontline NHS doctor, who worked for the government in west Africa during the Ebola crisis, said some fellow workers are saying they are sick because they fear the PPE provisions are inadequate.

"All my colleagues are quite nervous - some people are going off sick because they don't feel safe," the doctor said.

"Others are seeking placement elsewhere so they are not frontline, again because of the lack of PPE.

"The closed WhatsApp groups are awash with fear, anger and confusion around the issues regarding PPE."

A junior doctor at the Royal Bolton Hospital in Greater Manchester compared the situation to sending a soldier to war without the necessary equipment.

"You wouldn't send a soldier out without the necessary equipment so why are healthcare professionals not being provided the adequate PPE?" he said.

Another junior doctor added: "There's not enough, there's nowhere near enough.

"There is such a shortage, so we feel like it's inevitable we're going to get sick. Infection control tells you one thing, the government are advising another thing, there's so much conflicting advice."

The World Health Organisation has warned that the "chronic" shortage of PPE is threatening "our collective ability to save lives".

On Friday, WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: "When health workers are at risk, we're all at risk."

The Department of Health and Social Care said it has issued millions of pieces of equipment and set up a national helpline so those in need can ask for more.

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Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick told a Downing Street briefing on Sunday that 170 million masks, some 42.8 million gloves, 13.7 million aprons, 182,000 gowns, almost 10 million items of cleaning equipment and 2.3 million pairs of eye protectors were being delivered to frontline staff.

He said: "Every single GP practice, dental practice and community pharmacy has had a PPE delivery. All care homes, hospices, and home care providers have, or will shortly, receive a delivery."

(c) Sky News 2020: Coronavirus: Hospital staff 'hiding' protective equipment due to NHS shortages, say medics

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