Hospital workers hiding protective gear amid shortages, medics claim

Hospital staff are hiding personal protective equipment (PPE) as shortages bite on the NHS frontline, medics have claimed.

Some workers are saying they are sick as they fear the provisions are inadequate.

Global shortages of the equipment medics and carers need to protect themselves against Covid-19 have led to shortfalls in the UK.

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

Staff at one hospital have taken to “hiding” equipment out of sheer desperation, a doctor said.

The obstetrician working in a hospital in London told the PA news agency that protective gear is being kept under lock and key by senior staff.

Another doctor compared the situation to sending a soldier to war without the necessary equipment while a junior doctor said it feels like it is “inevitable” that they will contract the virus due to a lack of PPE.

“There is some, but now we’re in a situation where people are having to hide them and store them for their own staff,” the obstetrician, who chose to speak anonymously, said.

“Our bosses are having to store a certain number.

“We are working in a hospital where there are key workers – including orderlies, porters, healthcare assistant – they have a right to be protected too.

“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. They’ve said she doesn’t need a mask because she’s not in contact with Covid patients but so many patients are asymptomatic. We should be managing patients as though everybody has it.”

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

She added: “There is not enough kit. 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.

“What people are doing is they are hiding them because they don’t want just anyone grabbing the kit, so the bottom line is there is not enough kit.

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

Another frontline NHS doctor, who also worked for the Government in west Africa during the Ebola crisis, told PA some fellow workers are saying they are sick as 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, who asked to remain anonymous, 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 said PPE was the main concern for health workers.

Coronavirus
A nurse wears personal protective equipment (PA)

He told PA: “I just think at the moment the main thing from a healthcare worker is our concerns about PPE.

“You wouldn’t send a soldier out without the necessary equipment so why are healthcare professionals not being provided the adequate PPE?”

Another junior doctor in Norfolk also told the news agency: “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.

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.”

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