BMA calls for clarity over what poorly-protected doctors should do

Healthcare workers need clarity from ministers about what risks they should not have to take if they do not have adequate personal protective equipment, the British Medical Association has said.

The BMA trade union issued the call after concerns about PPE shortages, with leading nurses saying staff on some Covid-19 wards are caring for patients without any protective equipment.

On Sunday, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said the Government “cannot and should not ask people to be on the front line without the right protective equipment”.

He also confirmed that 170 million masks and almost 10 million items of cleaning equipment are among the items being delivered to NHS trusts and healthcare settings.

But the BMA said that, despite the assurances, many hospitals and GP practices continue to face “life-threatening shortages” of PPE.

BMA consultants committee chairman 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 front line 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.”

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Chairman of the GP committee Dr Richard Vautrey said: “Despite the promises about the urgent delivery of personal protective equipment, the reality for many practices on the ground remains the same.

“We are still hearing reports that many have insufficient PPE supplied to them and don’t know if or when more will be coming.

“Understandably, many GPs remain seriously concerned that what has been provided does not offer them sufficient protection for both themselves and for patients.

“This situation cannot be allowed to continue.

“Practices need action not more promises.”

The call came as The Independent reported that frontline doctors have been warned not to speak to the media about shortages of PPE.

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