‘THE Government has five tests it has said must be met to ease lockdown – the first of which is “making sure the NHS can cope”,’ said BMA Council Chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul yesterday.
‘Six weeks into this crisis,’ he continued, ‘how can the government be confident that this condition is anywhere near being met, or that the pandemic is under control, when the very people on the frontline are not being made safe?’
Nagpaul was announcing the results of the biggest survey of frontline NHS doctors since the coronavirus crisis began, with over 16,000 doctors answering questions on PPE (personal protective equipment) provision, their well-being and drug shortages.
The survey revealed nearly half of doctors have sourced their own PPE for personal or departmental use, or they have relied upon donations.
Dr Nagpaul said: ‘In what is the biggest survey of frontline NHS staff during this crisis, thousands of doctors have told the BMA that they have had to personally buy PPE for themselves or their department or rely on donations.
‘55% of GPs told us they sourced their own PPE or relied on donations and 38% of hospital doctors.
‘On the one-hand it shows how resourceful they have been and how much support there has been from the general public in providing kit; but far more importantly, it is a damning indictment of the government’s abject failure to make sure healthcare workers across the country are being supplied with the life-saving kit they should be.
‘The survey shows that overall, there has been an improvement in the provision of PPE, but if almost half of all doctors report that they had to resort to purchasing PPE themselves or rely on donations, then there is still a lot for the government to do to protect its frontline.
‘Doctors are still reporting shortages in gowns, with one in three not having enough gowns in settings where they are most at risk with the most poorly of Covid patients.’
One doctor commented: ‘The PPE situation is an outrage for all staff. Lives lost for want of plastic visors, masks, and eye protection.’
Another said: ‘Adequate PPE supply in terms of gowns and visors would reduce stress within the team as almost all of our patients are Covid positive.’
65% of doctors said they felt only partly, or not at all protected from coronavirus, in their workplace. And one in four report worsening mental distress during the pandemic including depression, anxiety and burnout.
Dr Nagpaul added: ‘30% of doctors told the BMA they wouldn’t bother to speak up about an issue such as PPE or drug shortages, as they didn’t think anything would be done about it.
‘That’s a terrible state of affairs and the BMA calls upon NHS England and the government to remind employers to encourage and support staff to speak out and be heard.’