Coronavirus sparks theft of hand sanitiser and toilet paper from GP practices

Theft of hand sanitiser, toilet paper and handwash from surgeries has spiked as concern grows over the coronavirus outbreak, GPs have warned.

Hand sanitiser stolen (Photo: Zephyr18/Getty Images)
Hand sanitiser stolen (Photo: Zephyr18/Getty Images)

Bottles of hand sanitiser and handwash, as well as toilet rolls, have all gone missing from practices in recent weeks following reports of shortages and stockpiling in the national media.

A total of 319 people in the UK have now tested positive for COVID-19, with five deaths from the illness.

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock assured MPs on Monday that the NHS was ‘well prepared’ for an outbreak, announcing the government was making an extra £46m available to find a vaccine and develop rapid diagnostic tests.

Meanwhile, GP surgeries will this week receive an ‘initial stock’ of personal protective equipment (PPE), including gloves, aprons and protective masks, after GPs reported problems with getting appropriate supplies.

Staff at risk

Reading GP Dr Simon Ruffle tweeted that colleagues at his practice had reported greater incidents of theft, with patients taking a number of supplies. He warned these actions put both patients and practice ‘at even greater risk’.

Reports of theft from GP surgeries in recent weeks have not been uncommon, with a number of people taking to social media to highlight the problem. One patient tweeted that his GP had told him about thefts of hand sanitiser, labelling the act ‘insane’.

Likewise, the partner of a GP surgery worker reported a practice having hand sanitiser stolen from reception.

Last week, the BBC reported that hand sanitiser dispensers had been ‘ripped off the walls’ at a Northampton hospital amid increased demand for supplies.

Three quarters of GPs believe that routine appointments should be suspended in the event of a widespread coronavirus outbreak, with three in five calling for the suspension of online booking of appointments.

A GPonline poll found most GPs do not believe their practice is ready for the coronavirus outbreak.

  • How have you or your practice been affected by coronavirus? Get in touch with GPonline in confidence at gponline@haymarket.com

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