Concerns over supply shortage of protective gear for frontline health workers

There are “critical” shortages of laboratory equipment, medical devices and protective equipment in some countries, European health leaders have said.

The European branch of the World Health Organisation (WHO) said it was aware of some shortages and was also monitoring the potential risk of a disruption to medicine supplies.

It comes after officials in Britain faced renewed calls to keep frontline staff healthy and ensure they have enough protective equipment to continue caring for patients.

Members of the GMB union have complained of a “national shortage” of personal protective equipment for ambulance crews.

And a GP in Suffolk told the PA news agency that she and her colleagues had been given a “solitary mask” – and in some cases two GPs are sharing the same one if they had a job or room share.

Meanwhile WHO’s regional director for Europe reiterated calls for bold action from both governments and communities across the region.

Dr Hans Henri Kluge said: “Health facilities have to have the necessary equipment to care for those seriously affected and to protect health workers from exposure.”

He added: “WHO is monitoring the potential risk of a disruption to medicine supplies, focusing on essential medicines critical for primary health care and emergencies, including antibiotics, painkillers, treatments for diabetes, hypertension, HIV, tuberculosis.”

“WHO delivers laboratory equipment, medical devices and personal protective equipment to countries in need. We are aware of some critical shortages and working hand-in-hand with partners like the European Commission and WHO globally and the private industry to tackle this.”


Meanwhile, the GMB union raised concerns about the levels of personal protective equipment for health workers.

Gavin Davies, the union’s senior regional organiser for health, said both the London Ambulance Service and the East of England Ambulance Service were “struggling with their supplies”.

He said: “We were alerted by members in the service that there is a national shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) available for our professional ambulance crews who are required to be at the front line of health care and saving lives.

“GMB has substantive membership in all Ambulance Trusts and we are really concerned that our members are being asked to attend Covid-19 call-outs without the appropriate PPE, including face masks, due to this supply shortage.

He added:”GMB has been locked in conversation with the London Ambulance Service about the provision for PPE along with the East of England Ambulance Service and we are aware that both of these services are struggling with their supplies. Face masks are at dangerously low levels.”

Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, added: “It is vital that GP teams and all frontline health workers have the equipment they need to do their jobs in the safest way possible as this crisis develops.”