Protective gear and basic anti-infection supplies are still failing to reach most doctors fighting COVID-19 on the front line, a wide-ranging snapshot survey has indicated.
The findings from member responses to a BMA survey add to growing evidence that doctors are risking their lives daily for want of supplies – and after repeated claims the supply chain fiasco is fixed.
BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul said the survey revealed a ‘very different picture’ to the one presented by ministers.
‘For weeks now the Government has assured us that equipment is being rolled out, that the supply issues will be fixed,’ he said. ‘This survey shows this is not the reality. Doctors have told us they have little confidence in the Government to support and protect them. Doctors, indeed all healthcare workers, feel badly let down.’
The survey found that more than half (55 per cent) of hospital doctors felt pressured often or sometimes to be involved in risky ‘aerosol-generating procedures’ without adequate protection.
The fitted masks and face protection recommended by Public Health England for the riskiest situation were in shortest supply, the survey found.
More than half (54 per cent) reported a shortage or ‘no supply’ at all of FFP3 (Filtering Face Piece) masks. Seventy per cent said the same for full-faced visors.
Supplies in GP surgeries were even worse, the survey found.
Almost nine out of 10 GPs (88 per cent) lacked access to eye protection, 58 per cent had not received a regular supply of face masks. Only 2 per cent of GPs said they felt ‘fully protected’.
‘I am the only Muslim anaesthetist with a beard in my department,’ one doctor said in their response to the survey. ‘I am being forced to shave my beard due to unavailability of hood masks with respirator, and a bearded doctor can’t pass a fit mask test.’
A GP said: ‘I feel betrayed by the Government who are not transparent enough to say that they do not have the ideal supplies and are therefore asking us to put ourselves in harm’s way with suboptimal protection.’
Dr Nagpaul said NHS staff needed ‘cast iron assurances’ that access to PPE and proper protection was guaranteed. ‘The Government must get a grip on this situation now,’ he added.
‘Increasing numbers of healthcare workers are dying from COVID-19 in the UK, including four doctors, and it is frankly disgraceful that frontline staff are still expected to work unprotected. We must protect doctors so they can protect patients.’