Coronavirus: NHS staff forced to share masks and hold their breath when treating patients due to PPE shortages, claims leading doctor

Doctors also being forced to accept PPE donated from local school science labs, says Dr Rinesh Parmar

Samuel Lovett
Sunday 05 April 2020 18:07 BST
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Coronavirus: Sunbathers in parks are breaking government restrictions, says health secretary

Doctors and nurses are being forced to share masks or hold their breath while treating coronavirus patients due to a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), a leading doctor has claimed.

Dr Rinesh Parmar, of the Doctors’ Association, told Sophy Ridge on Sunday that despite government promises to equip all NHS staff with the necessary PPE, health workers were still being left exposed within hospitals.

He said that a survey conducted by his organisation has found that almost half of doctors say they have no eye protection at all.

In some hospitals, staff were having to reuse eye masks, Dr Parmar said, adding that nurses doing high-risk procedures are “having to hold their breath”.

“Given the severe lack of PPE getting through, we are all very concerned about potentially losing more colleagues”, he said.

Dr Parmar said it was sad to hear of those who had already been lost “in the line of duty”, adding “none of us want to hear further stories of frontline staff losing their lives.”

To combat PPE shortages, doctors are also being forced to accept donations from local schools’ science labs, he said.

Dr Parmar also raised concerns about the country’s testing capacity, saying: “We have heard in the last few weeks that testing is going to be ramped up. It would be welcome to see that in practice.”

He claimed that there have been reports of doctors going to testing centres, only to be turned away.

Saffron Cordery, of NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts, told Sky News that, over time, increasing testing “may be doable”.

She said that testing is important because “the more staff we test, the more staff we can get back to work”.

Asked if there are concerns that some regions of the country are better prepared for the pandemic than others, Ms Cordery said that the stock of ventilators is being managed nationally.

She added: “I think that the nature of this pandemic is that it is spreading from region to region.

“London is probably best prepared because London has seen the surge in demand hitting first. It is important that every part of the country is supported.”

Earlier on the programme, health secretary Matt Hancock warned that people sunbathing in public spaces amid the recent warm weather were breaching the coronavirus social distancing rules.

“The vast majority of people are following the public health advice, which is absolutely critical, and staying at home,” he said.

“But there are a small minority of people who are still not doing that – it’s quite unbelievable frankly to see that there are some people who are not following the advice.”

Asked whether sunbathing in public spaces was against the law, he said: “Sunbathing is against the rules that have been set out for important public health reasons.”

He warned those who are flouting the guidance: “You are putting others’ lives at risk and you are putting yourself in harm’s way.”

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