Hand sanitiser being stolen from UK hospitals amid coronavirus outbreak

'Please help us to keep our patients safe by not removing the dispensers or using them to top up your own dispensers,' pleads Northampton General Hospital

Kate Ng
Saturday 07 March 2020 17:33 GMT
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A hospital in Northampton has pleaded with visitors to stop taking bottles of hand sanitiser from “the end of our patients’ beds and from our welcome desks” after a spate of disappearing gel.

Northampton General Hospital raised concerns about a potential shortage of the foaming hand sanitiser gel amid rising panic over coronavirus spreading in the UK.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK rose to 206 on Saturday, up from 164, and two people have died. Two of those cases were identified in Northampton.

In a statement on Facebook, the hospital said: “Please help us to keep our patients safe by not removing the dispensers or using them to top up your own dispensers.”

Ward managers were asked to “monitor closely” stock of the product in an email from the hospital’s infection prevention team, seen by the Northampton Chronicle.

The email mentioned discussions with the procurement team about a potential future shortage of the hand sanitising gel.

It said: “Unfortunately, relatives seem to be taking them from the ends of beds.

“Whilst we acknowledge that there is potential for a national shortage of foam due to the coronavirus, we do not want our patients to be put at risk of other infections whilst they are in hospital.”

A spokeswoman for the hospital also told the Northampton Chronicle three dispensers were “ripped from walls” and visitors have been seen filling up their own dispensers with the hospital’s supplies.

She added: “We don’t have an unlimited supply and would ask that visitors to the site respect the fact that we are doing all we can to keep our patients, visitors and staff safe, and we need their support.”

The NHS advised the most effective way to avoid catching or spreading the virus is to wash hands often with soap and water. Hand sanitising gel should be used if soap and water are not available.

Globally, people are panic-buying items such as hand sanitiser, face masks, and toilet paper in anticipation of the outbreak spreading even further.

Photos of emptied shelves in pharmacies and supermarkets have been posted on social media while health authorities attempted to caution against panic-buying and hoarding, which have resulted in fights in some places.

On Thursday, Matt Hancock, the health secretary, told a Question Time audience the government was working with supermarkets to ensure people would be able to get food and supplies while in self-isolation.

But supermarket sources said Mr Hancock’s claim was “totally made up” and they have not heard anything from the government regarding the matter.

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