Meanwhile, the body representing hospital trusts in England, NHS Providers, has warned that the supply of clinical gowns is “critical” and that some “will run out of fully flowing repellents this weekend.”
The warnings came as the number of deaths in British hospitals in the middle of the pandemic exceeded 15,000 on Saturday, according to the latest government figures. Another 888 people have died in the past 24 hours.
A BMA investigation released on Saturday found the supplies are not reaching hospitals in the British National Health Service (NHS), even though many factories are ready to manufacture them.
Research has found that half of the 6,000 respondents working in high-risk areas have reported shortages of gowns and disposable glasses. Two-thirds reported insufficient or non-existent eye protection.
Almost half said they felt pressured to work without adequate protection.
“Two months after the start of the COVID-19 crisis in Britain, we should not yet hear that doctors do not feel protected when they go to work,” said BMA chairman , Chaand Nagpaul.
“Really sorry situation”
UK Health Minister Matt Hancock acknowledged problems with the supply of protective gowns, adding that 55,000 were due for delivery on Friday.
Local government secretary Robert Jenrick said today (April 18) that 84 more tonnes of PPE will arrive from Turkey on Monday and include 400,000 protective gowns, but admitted that “more” needs to be done.
He added that the government is also working with British manufacturers, making sure they can make a contribution.
Official guidelines have been changed and medical staff have been advised that it may be necessary to reuse the equipment even if the equipment is designed to be discarded.
The British Medical Association said it had been contacted by more than 70 private companies offering to supply equipment to the NHS, but had difficulty engaging with official channels.
“This is a very sorry situation, and we renew our call on the government to work with manufacturers to increase the domestic supply,” said Chaand Nagpaul. “Too many doctors and health workers have already lost their lives. We can no longer afford to risk losing. “
Struggle to increase testing
British Business Secretary Alok Sharma said on Friday that the government was working hard to reach its target of 100,000 people tested daily for the new coronavirus by the end of April.
Speaking at a briefing in London, Sharma said the current daily testing capacity was 38,000 tests. But he said the number would increase over the next two weeks.
International health specialist Anthony Costello of University College London (UCL) has warned that “new waves” of the virus could hit the UK, causing up to 40,000 deaths. The government has been “too slow” to respond, he said.