Third of nurses caring for coronavirus patients 'without adequate PPE'

16 May 2020, 10:31 | Updated: 16 May 2020, 10:33

File photo: The UK-wide survey of more than 5,000 nursing staff for the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) found 34 per cent were working without adequate PPE
File photo: The UK-wide survey of more than 5,000 nursing staff for the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) found 34 per cent were working without adequate PPE. Picture: Getty

By Megan White

More than one in three nurses and healthcare assistants are caring for Covid-19 patients without adequate personal protective equipment, a poll suggests.

The UK-wide survey of more than 5,000 nursing staff for the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) found 34 per cent were working without adequate PPE, including gowns that have been promised by the Government.

More than 150 NHS workers have died during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as a number of other frontline workers.

Almost a quarter (23 per cent) of respondents who need gowns said there were not enough for them to use, with a further 34 per cent concerned about the supply for their next shift.

Some 58 per cent of nursing staff across both the NHS and social care said they had raised concerns about PPE, with 27 per cent saying these concerns had not been addressed.

For those who did not raise concerns, many said they thought it would make no difference to the action taken in their workplace while others were worried it would have a negative impact on their career.

Almost one in five staff working in high-risk environments said there were not enough respirator masks for them to use, with a further 35 per cent concerned about the supply for their next shift.

More than four in 10 (44 per cent) are being forced to re-use single use equipment and 32 per cent had not been adequately fit-tested for respirator masks.

Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive of the RCN, said: "We continue to hear that our members are still not adequately protected.

"This is particularly concerning especially if the country faces the threat of a second wave.

"We have repeatedly raised the issue with UK governments and have heard assurances that PPE is being delivered.

"But this survey - and the direct contact I have with members - shows that is not the experience on the ground in hospitals as well as in care homes."

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The BMA said that plans to resume normal NHS services need to give detail on how PPE will be provided for all healthcare workers and how the risk of infection will be mitigated.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the BMA Council chairman, said: "Last month the Government insisted that before lockdown was eased, the NHS must be able to cope.

"These results clearly show that doctors on the front line feel this is not the case.

"This is heart-breaking to doctors, indeed all healthcare workers, who want nothing more than to provide the best care for their patients and to avoid delays in essential scans for disease such as cancer."

Through tributes from local NHS trusts and loved ones, it has been confirmed 173 health and social care workers have died after contracting Covid-19 since March 11.

The figure is likely to be still lower than the true number of workers who have died.

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