London paramedics have enough PPE, says boss

Paramedics in the capital do have enough equipment to do their job safely during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the chief executive of London Ambulance Service (LAS).

There have been concerns that NHS staff are not being supplied with enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep them safe while treating patients with Covid-19

LAS boss Garrett Emmerson said: “We have enough equipment and the challenge has been to make sure we stay in that position and that we can get supplies and we keep supplies, not only arriving here for us to use, but also to distribute out across our ambulance stations and get them on to ambulances.”

He added: “It’s another part of the logistical challenge to make sure we can keep all of the equipment, not only PPE but medical equipment, and our vehicles on the road.”

Mr Emmerson made the comments on Wednesday as LAS announced that firefighters would be joining paramedics to help keep ambulances staffed during the crisis.

He said that staff are facing a “huge challenge” and are receiving “many many more calls” than normal at the same time as a 20-25% staff absence rate due to self-isolation and sickness.

One paramedic has said the service is experiencing “quite a lot of unprecedented pressure” and “everyone on the front line is feeling it quite a lot”.

Ralph Chadkirk told PA: “I think everyone is under quite a lot of stress, this is a very new situation that nobody has really dealt with before, but it’s heartening to see the lengths our staff are going to respond to it.”

London coronavirus figures
(PA Graphics)

Mr Chadrick is facing a long period without being able to see his family as the pandemic continues, but said he does feel safe.

He explained: “I think we know that pressure and demand on the service is probably going to go up as we progress through the pandemic – we’ve developed some really strong contingency plans so I’m confident that we’re in a pretty good place for it.”

Michael Mulot has been a firefighter Kentish Town for 11 years and has now offered his time to help keep ambulances running.

He said volunteering to help paramedics “flows quite naturally from why all of us joined the service and that was to help people”.

He explained: “There’s an overlap between what we do, at this time when the NHS is particularly beleaguered it just seems like the right thing to do.

“It’s good to take a risk if it prevents people more vulnerable than yourself from being exposed to a bigger one.”

He added: “On balance, it’s not an ideal situation for anyone, but if we can do something to help people who are more at risk than us, as far as I’m concerned that’s the right thing to do.”

Under the new agreement announced on Wednesday, up to 300 staff from LFB will drive ambulances and assist paramedics as directed.

The plan follows a national agreement last week between the National Employers, National Fire Chiefs Council and the Fire Brigades Union to support local authorities and the NHS, including ambulance services.

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