GPs condemn 'shambolic' PPE situation and demand urgent action to protect staff

GPs have hit out at the 'shambolic' provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the COVID-19 pandemic, with doctors across an entire county warning that 'no practice' has adequate supplies.

PPE in short supply (Photo: Svetlanais/Getty Images)
PPE in short supply (Photo: Svetlanais/Getty Images)

An open letter published by Kent LMC warns that 'to date we are not aware of any practice that has received adequate supplies of appropriate PPE' through standard NHS supply mechanisms.

Practices are 'having to rely on donations, personal innovation and the creativity of community supporters' the LMC warned - a situation that chimes with reports from across the UK of GPs 3D printing PPE or working with companies to do so, and purchasing items from DIY stores.

The LMC passed a motion last week warning: 'Kent LMC strongly condemns the current shambolic situation regarding the lack of adequate PPE made available to GPs and practice staff by NHS England and demands that the PPE be provided to all health and social care staff in accordance with WHO guidance immediately before more frontline staff come to preventable harm due to lack of PPE.'

NHS staff safety

Demanding that the government treat NHS workers 'as the precious resource they are', Kent LMC warned that it was 'unacceptable' for any healthcare staff to be forced to face 'the dilemma of having to see patients without adequate protection'.

The Kent motion came as the BMA hit out at a national shortage of PPE, with a poll of 6,000 doctors revealing that one in three GPs still have no access to eye protection - which is now recommended by Public Health England for any contact with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases.

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: 'Two months into the COVID-19 crisis in Britain, we shouldn’t still be hearing that doctors feel unprotected when they go to work.'

'The government says that 1bn items will soon have been shipped, and while there have been signs of improvement, our research clearly shows that equipment is not reaching all doctors working on the front line.'

PPE shortage

The BMA chair said it was a 'sorry state of affairs' that the government had been unable in recent days to guarantee that hospitals would not run out of vital PPE supplies while the association had been 'inundated' with offers from companies willing to provide more.

One estimate, from the Nursing Notes website, now suggests that more than 100 health and care staff have died after contracting COVID-19 - with four GPs confirmed to have lost their lives, and another former GP added to their number on Tuesday.

Dr Nagpaul added: 'Too many doctors and healthcare staff have already lost their lives. We cannot afford to risk losing any more.'

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said on 20 April at the government's daily coronavirus briefing: 'We're improving our sourcing internationally and domestically to make sure we can get the PPE we need in what is a very challenging international context.

'But people on the front line can rest assured that we're doing absolutely everything we can, and straining everything we can, to get the equipment they need.'

Doctors in Northern Ireland, meanwhile, have launched a petition in protest over comments from Northern Ireland CMO Dr Michael McBride suggesting that GPs did not need masks to see non-symptomatic patients.

BMA leaders have said all patients should now be considered potential COVID-19 cases even if they do not currently have symptoms.

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