GPs demand clarity on when to use PPE in COVID-19 outbreak

GP leaders have demanded urgent clarification over when and how primary care staff should use personal protective equipment (PPE) amid growing fears healthcare workers are being put at risk.

RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall (Photo: Pete Hill)
RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall (Photo: Pete Hill)

RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall has written to health and social care secretary Matt Hancock to demand clear guidance that will reassure GPs and practice staff.

The college said GPs are reporting concerns over the quality of PPE they are being asked to use - with GPs particularly concerned about the standard of aprons they are being asked to use and a lack of eye protection.

Professor Marshall wrote: 'GPs across the country have never been more concerned, not just for the safety of themselves and their teams, but for patients too.

PPE shortage

'Our members are telling us that their confidence to carry out patient consultations is being impacted by uncertainty over the quality of PPE being supplied to their surgeries.

'This is particularly relevant for aprons and eye protection, which many believe to be providing inadequate protection. We note that the WHO recommends that GPs should be using eye protection for consultations, yet most practices do not yet have sufficient access to it and there are outstanding concerns around the use of aprons and whether clinicians should have full body cover when seeing patients.'

The letter comes just 24 hours after GPonline exclusively revealed that more than four in five GPs are not satisfied with the quality or quantity of PPE supplied to their practice.

The BMA, meanwhile, has warned that doctors will die without adequate PPE during the COVID-19 outbreak. A total of 9,529 cases have now been confirmed in the UK, with 463 deaths.

GP safety

BMA deputy chair Dr David Wrigley told GPonline on 25 March that GPs are now seeing only patients who are very ill face-to-face - and should be wearing PPE in all of these consultations.

Professor Marshall warns in his letter to the health and social care secretary: 'As the situation develops further, GPs will see an increasing number of patients with COVID-19. While many of these patients will have symptoms associated with the virus, there are those who will present asymptomatically, particularly in primary care settings, but could still be infectious. It is therefore vital that urgent clarity is provided as to whether GPs should begin wearing PPE for all face-to-face patient consultations.'

The RCGP chair also highlighted concerns over supplies of PPE - with reports that some practices have been told to buy their own and have resorted to trying to purchase kit from DIY stores.

GPonline reported this week that innovative GPs in Surrey have begun 3D printing face visors to reassure staff during face-to-face consultations with patients.

A DHSC spokesperson said: 'We are working around the clock to give the social care sector and wider-NHS the equipment and support they need to tackle this outbreak.

'We have delivered millions more items of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline staff at care homes, home care providers and hospices as well as to hospitals, ambulance trusts, GP practices and pharmacists.

'The full weight of the government is behind this effort and we are working closely with industry, social care providers, the NHS, and the army to ensure the right equipment continues to be delivered.'

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register

Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

GMC defers revalidation for a further 9,000 doctors due to pandemic

GMC defers revalidation for a further 9,000 doctors due to pandemic

Around 9,000 doctors who are due to revalidate between March and July 2021 will have...

NHS England praises GPs after steep rise in general practice appointments

NHS England praises GPs after steep rise in general practice appointments

NHS England primary care medical director Dr Nikki Kanani has thanked GPs and their...

Half of GPs say patients harmed by delays to care during COVID-19 pandemic

Half of GPs say patients harmed by delays to care during COVID-19 pandemic

Nearly half of GPs say patients on their list have come to harm because of delays...

Viewpoint: Test and trace isn't working - could GPs do it better?

Viewpoint: Test and trace isn't working - could GPs do it better?

The outsourced test and trace system isn't working, says Dr Simon Hodes. It's time...

Doctors call for test and trace millions to be diverted to primary care and local NHS

Doctors call for test and trace millions to be diverted to primary care and local NHS

Doctors have urged the government to divert hundreds of millions of pounds from the...

Hundreds of GPs a month seek mental health support as COVID-19 pressure bites

Hundreds of GPs a month seek mental health support as COVID-19 pressure bites

More than 200 GPs a month are seeking mental health support as COVID-19 drives up...