‘All NHS workers & their families must be tested!’ – demands BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul

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Unite members marching in defence of the NHS – there has been a decade of NHS cuts

‘ALL health workers and their families must be tested immediately,’ Chair of the Council of the British Medical Association and GP Dr Chaand Nagpaul demanded yesterday.

Johnson’s government said that testing of NHS staff began over the weekend. However, it is only those who are showing symptoms who are being tested, by which time it is too late.

Nagpaul, said: ‘While we are trying to increase the medical workforce, we of course, have seen significant numbers of doctors and nurses and other staff off work, self-isolating, in many cases needlessly, so it is rather paradoxical to see these two initiatives.’

One in four NHS workers are self-isolating because of the coronavirus.

On the burning issue of personal protective equipment (PPE) Tory Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick claimed 42.8 million gloves, 142,000 gowns and 2.3 million pairs of eye protectors have been delivered to 58,000 ‘health care settings’, including hospitals and GP surgeries.

However, Nagpaul said: ‘There seems to be a disconnect between what we are hearing, and it may well be that the supplies are there separately, and I know that they are being shipped to the hospitals, but in fact on the ground, for whatever reason, they haven’t yet translated in any consistent way, so that I am getting messages from doctors every single day, including on the weekend, still saying that there are shortages, or that they are having to ration equipment.

‘The equipment that we are getting doesn’t give us full protection.

‘So the supplies given to GP surgeries do not, for example, include eye protection, which is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). The infection as you know is spread through droplets, so if a GP is in close contact with a patient who coughs, our worry is that those droplets could be absorbed through the mucus membranes of the eyes.’

Donna Kinnair, RCN Chief Executive and General Secretary, commented yesterday: ‘The government is finally prioritising Covid-19 testing for NHS staff, including social care, but it is completely unacceptable that weeks into this crisis, there are colleagues in all settings – hospitals, community or care homes – who have not been provided with personal protective equipment. I am hearing from nurses who are treating patients in Covid-19 wards without any protection at all. This cannot continue. They are putting themselves, their families, and their patients at risk.

‘Every minute we wait is a minute too long. All nursing staff, no matter where they work, must feel safe. We need action, we need equipment, we need it now.’