NHS staff in danger?

Medical professionals don't have enough safety equipment

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Do NHS staff need more protection?

By Joe Harker

The NHS is gearing up to deal with the coronavirus, but they lack enough gear to guarantee the safety of healthcare professionals.

Doctors and nurses will have to spend a lot of time with patients who require treatment for the virus but if they're not protected themselves then the people the UK will rely on most to deal with the disease will become among the most vulnerable to it.

What risks are NHS staff facing when it comes to the coronavirus?

The Claim:

The Times reports that NHS staff are worried they will die from being exposed to the coronavirus at work as a lack of pull protective gear puts them in danger.

Senior doctors say relaxed guidelines on the proper safety gear are due to a lack of supply rather than it being best practice, while hand gel has reportedly been stolen from the end of patient beds.

The full protective equipment consists of a special FFP3 mask, a surgical gown, a visor and two pairs of gloves, but that will only be required for staff who are doing tasks such as ventilating a patient. Most doctors and nurses will have to make do with a standard surgical mask, an apron and one pair of gloves.

Healthcare professionals in other countries are being provided with stricter equipment requirements and there are stories from China and Italy of coronavirus deaths among doctors and nurses who have been treating patients. NHS staff are afraid the same will happen to them.

Some of the gear the NHS has been issued with appears to be out of date, with some face masks printed with expiry dates from years ago.

The Counter Claim:

The government insists that the expired masks are still good for NHS use, though they had stickers over the date in order to conceal the truth from staff.

The Department of Health and Social Care said the masks weren't dangerous and had simply been relabelled after "stringent tests" which they passed.

Government ministers insisted that out of date equipment which didn't pass new tests were destroyed, meaning doctors and nurses would only be issued with personal protective equipment (PPE) that works.

The priority for PPE is hospitals, but NHS England has said that hundreds of protective kits are ready to be sent out to GP surgeries with plenty of aprons, gloves and masks.

Repeat deliveries are also planned to try and avoid a situation where NHS staff run out of protective equipment and are faced with a choice between putting their own health at serious risk or not being able to treat patients.

The Facts:

Many NHS staff are having to change their daily routine for fear of coronavirus, which poses a danger to them and their families.

The most common form of virus transmission is between family members when an infected person spreads the disease to those they live with.

The number of confirmed cases in the UK is over 2,626 and there are at least 104 deaths, though experts believe there are around 50,000 Brits infected.

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The Times

Coronavirus: NHS doctors fear they will die for lack of safety equipment

Frontline hospital staff fear that doctors and nurses will die because of NHS guidance that they do not need to wear full protective equipment when caring for virus patients.

Senior doctors told The Times that they believed the advice was driven by equipment shortages rather than best practice. They also said that hygiene levels on wards were slipping below usual standards because people were stealing hand gel from the end of patients' beds.

NHS guidance says that full protective equipment, including specialist masks, surgical gowns, a visor and two pairs of gloves, need only be worn during "aerosol-generating procedures" such as ventilating a patient.

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