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Last Update: 3 Day and 20 Minute ago
News code: 29121
Published Date: Tuesday 10 March 2020 - 10:43:17

UK hospitals running out of protective equipment for staff

UK hospitals running out of protective equipment for staff
World  - Hospitals in the United Kingdom are close to running out of equipment vital to protecting doctors and nurses from catching Covid-19 from infected patients.

NHS medics have reported being unable to obtain some face masks and other specialist personal protective equipment (PPE) which is needed to prevent them from falling ill. Multiple sources have said that some hospitals are only weeks away from running out of equipment.

The Department of Health and Social Care, in response to concerns aired on Sunday, said it would now release the UK's stockpile of equipment set aside for when the country faces a pandemic disease. Coronavirus has not yet been classified as a pandemic.

Doctors have been told to limit their use of face masks during procedures and surgeries in an attempt to maintain supplies while NHS England announced it would be shipping PPE to general practitioners (GP) this week amid concerns they lack enough equipment.

One NHS manager, speaking with The Independent, said they were aware of three NHS trusts which lacked sufficient equipment and were presently rationing what they had to try and attempting to make the supplies last until they can get more deliveries.

They said, "PPE is about to become a major issue. We've got a problem and NHS Supply Chain are invisible on the issue and the national command team are keeping silent. We will be out of PPE in two weeks with no supplies on the horizon.

"This is going to be the game changer and nobody wants to address the problem. Our masks are made in China and they aren't about to let any stock leave the country. Of our key PPE lines, three are now unavailable for the rest of March and who knows when from there.

"As usual we are all being gagged. This is serious and I know what this means and what the risks are."

Another said, "It's not really about not having enough now, it's about knowing we will have enough in the future as staff use up the stock. We need to secure enough supply going forward."

China, which is the world's biggest manufacturer of masks and surgical protective equipment, has banned the export of most PPE equipment due to its own demands during the coronavirus outbreak.

Senior NHS sources confirmed some hospital trusts were struggling to get supplies of masks and hand gel which they say could also put at risk community testing if staff did not have the equipment to protect themselves.

Public Health England has now revised its directive for staff treating suspected but not confirmed cases of coronavirus, with workers instructed to use ordinary surgical masks rather than increasingly scarce respirators.

A senior registered nurse (RN) from an NHS trust in the north of England told The Independent some trusts were struggling because others had been hoarding.

She said, "Public Health England won't release the national stockpile until the pandemic threshold is reached. They need to move on from swabbing everyone with a sniffle as that is using a lot of PPE equipment. We are reviewing our PPE at the moment.

"I think the difficulty in this is it's moving so fast and not everyone's realized yet the seriousness."

She added, "Honestly, as a healthcare worker it feels like we're about to go off to war or something. We know it's coming and we know some of us will get infected and some may even die, but we've got to get on and mitigate as best we can."

With the number of confirmed infections in the UK having reached 273 on Sunday afternoon, the NHS is gearing up for a spike in coronavirus cases. A warning from Italian doctors that critical care beds had been overwhelmed has ignited concerns the UK will struggle to cope with.

They said Italian hospitals had seen "a very high" number of intensive care patients who were admitted "almost entirely" for severe lung failure caused by the virus and needing ventilators to help them breathe.

They said hospitals across the UK and Europe needed to prepare for a surge in admissions and cautioned against working "in silos". They said it was vital hospitals had equipment to protect staff and that staff were trained in wearing the kit.

They added, "Increase your total ICU capacity. Identify early hospitals that can manage the initial surge in a safe way. Get ready to prepare ICU areas where to cohort Covid-19 patients - in every hospital if necessary."

NHS Supply Chain, which sources equipment for NHS trusts, said last week that it was managing demand for some PPE products in order to "maintain continuity of supply." It added, "We have seen an increased demand for PPE products over the last few weeks as NHS trusts have put in place preparedness measures. As a result, we are implementing controls on excessive order quantities to ensure stocks are managed fairly for all of our customers."

Having earlier said it was working with suppliers and had enough stock, on Friday, however, it sent out new customer alerts warning trusts some products including hand sanitisers were being restricted.

"As stock will be moving rapidly across all of these product codes please be aware that some products may be temporarily unavailable," it added.

The restricted products include hand gels and alcohol hand rubs, face visors and safety goggles, as well as surgical masks and respirators.

The World Health Organisation has warned of "severe and mounting disruption to the global supply" of equipment, which it said was leaving healthcare workers in some countries "dangerously ill-equipped" for the outbreak.

It said since the outbreak started prices have skyrocketed, with surgical masks costing six times more while the cost of respirators has trebled and gowns doubled. It estimates 89 million medical masks will be needed each month to cope with the outbreak.

After being contacted by The Independent at the weekend a DHSC spokeswoman said on Sunday that supplies would now be released from the pandemic stockpile "in a controlled manner to relieve pressure on supply that is being experienced on certain products".

She said, "We maintain large stockpiles of a range of personal protective equipment (PPE), including face masks, and these are being released in a controlled manner to help ensure the uninterrupted supply to the NHS.

"In line with well-established procedures, the NHS is managing a rise in demand for certain types of PPE across the NHS above normal levels. There is no need for local stockpiling."


News Code: 29121
Published Date: Tuesday 10 March 2020 - 10:43:17
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