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Coronavirus: Healthcare workers urge public not to rip hand sanitiser off hospital walls

Nurses say they are having to tie bottles of hand gel to patients’ beds to stop thefts

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Sunday 15 March 2020 13:38 GMT
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Boris Johnson tells public to wash their hands during press conference about coronavirus

People are stealing hand sanitiser from hospitals and GP surgeries in Britain because of the coronavirus outbreak, sparking pleas from healthcare workers to stop.

Some hospitals have resorted to tying hand gel bottles to patients’ beds and putting stocks in secure cupboards to stop more being taken amid a shortage in high street shops.

Staff on a cancer ward at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London wrote on Twitter: “I can’t believe I am having to ask this but please do not take the hand sanitisers off our wards when you visit Barts Hospital.

“We need it to ensure safe care for your loved ones, the best way to prevent the spread of Covid-19 is good hand-washing.”

A member of staff at Leicester Royal Infirmary called for people to “grow up and behave”.

Jim Stewart, clinical lead for the Leicester Intestinal Failure Team, wrote on Twitter: “To the public. I know you’re frightened but please do not steal the alcohol hand gel from hospitals. You’re putting staff and patients at risk. The NHS needs all the support it can get right now.”

He added: “If you steal from the NHS you’re complicit in someone’s death. At this time possibly several deaths. Grow up and behave.”

Lizzie Salter, a sister on a surgical ward at Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, wrote: “I had to cable tie hand sanitiser to beds today [Saturday] ... please please don’t steal our alcohol gel.”

Richard Beeken, the chief executive of Walsall Healthcare, tweeted: “Please do not steal hand sanitiser from our hospital or community premises. This is needed for clinical purposes and protecting the most vulnerable from infection.”

An anonymous worker at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow said thefts had been happening for more than a week.

“A man and woman just came into my ward and ripped a bottle of hand sanitiser from the walk and left again,” said one tweet. “Please stop stealing our hand sanitiser gel, staff and patients need it.”

Healthcare workers from across the UK reported similar thefts, with a man posting a photograph from outside an intensive care unit where a pouch of hand sanitiser had been ripped out of a wall dispenser.

“People have stolen them from my brother-in-law’s GP practice too, casing and all, ripping them off the wall,” one person wrote on Twitter.

Nurses reported that face masks and gloves had also been stolen from some hospitals.

It came as a group of British supermarkets appealed for people to stop panic buying.

British food retailers have appealed to the public to stop panic buying amid reports of bare shelves at supermarkets across the country.

An open letter urged people to be “considerate in the way they shop” so others were not left without, as some shops limit purchases of basic household items.

The health secretary urged people to “behave responsibly” on Sunday morning.

Matt Hancock said a proposed set of laws setting out emergency powers to deal with the coronavirus outbreak will be outlined on Tuesday and published in full two days later.

He added that the government was working with Labour to take a “cross-party approach”, adding: “It includes a broad range of actions, all about preparing Britain, making sure that we’re ready, should we need to be.”

By Sunday afternoon, 35 patients who tested positive for the virus had died and 1,372 cases had been confirmed in the UK.

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