Deaths of over 50 doctors from COVID-19 in Italy must serve as ‘urgent warning’ to British government on PPE supply

by BMA media team Press release from the BMA.
Location: UK
Published: Sunday 29 March 2020
Contract and pen article illustration

The BMA has written to Italy’s medical associations1 to extend its sincerest condolences to the country’s medical profession and send a message of solidarity to those clinicians who continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic after it was revealed that more than 50 doctors have now died from the virus. 

The BMA says that the tragic deaths of these doctors must serve as an urgent warning to the British government over the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) to doctors and healthcare workers in the UK.

In the letter, BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul writes:

“It is with deep sadness and horror that we learn that the lives of more than 50 doctors have now been lost in Italy to Covid-19, and I would like to extend my sincerest condolences, on behalf of the British medical profession.

"Our thoughts are with the loved ones of these doctors and we send a message of solidarity to those brave and committed colleagues who continue to battle the pandemic that is gripping your country and continues to spread across the continent and the world.

It continues: “British doctors have looked to Italy with trepidation as the spread here continues, as we are naturally concerned that we may face a challenge of the same scale within weeks. The bravery and compassion shown by our Italian colleagues in the most harrowing circumstances is an inspiration to us.

"We have particularly noted with frustration your calls for proper personal protective equipment go unheeded, especially in the light of the tragic deaths of more than 50 doctors.”

The BMA continues to campaign for a ready supply of PPE for hospitals, GP practices and other health settings in the UK, after doctors came forward to report shortages, rationing and inadequate protection.

Commenting, Dr Nagpaul added:

“On behalf of the entire medical profession in the UK, I send my deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of these brave and committed doctors in Italy, who lost their lives as they selflessly battled to save and care for patients from this virus.

“The death of one doctor is a tragedy, but to lose more than 50 is a catastrophe.

“Doctors and other healthcare workers in the UK have watched the situation unfold in Italy with a sense of trepidation and horror. We have heard Italy’s doctors raise concerns about a lack of personal protective equipment – and now we see the grave impact this has had.

“Here in the UK, we continue to hear from doctors in hospitals and GP practices, where there is either nowhere near enough PPE, equipment is rationed, or the standard of kit is below what’s needed. This is an unacceptable risk to the health and lives of both doctors and patients.

“The BMA has been unequivocal in its warnings about PPE: without a proper supply and adequate protection, doctors will become infected and ill, and some will die. 

“We are told we are weeks away from facing the same situation as Italy, and this must serve as an urgent warning to our nation and health service. We must learn from others. We have no time to waste and the Government must act now.”

Notes to editors

The BMA is a trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.

1. The BMA sent the letter to FNOMCeO and Anaao Assomed.

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