Correctly made, the gowns resist droplets that can spread the virus and have proven to be very effective in protecting medical personnel in Italy.
The overalls and full visors were not part of the national pandemic stock and their delivery was therefore less reliable than that of masks, aprons and gloves. A shipment of at least 100,000 dresses from China had to be rejected when it was found to be substandard, according to the Guardian. Other items labeled as blouses have been found to be different equipment.
Hopson said the supply of other PPE is going well, but “in the past 72 hours, some trusts have had a critical level on the dresses.” An internal memo sent this weekend to staff at the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust in London and viewed by the Guardian said: “The low supply of water-repellent long-sleeved dresses nationwide … is starting to affect us. “
Concerns have been expressed that the lack of PPE may increase illness and even death among health and care workers. The number of deaths among doctors and nurses continues to rise; Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Saturday that 19 NHS workers had died. He said, “We do not know of any connection between the shortage of PPE and any of these deaths. “
“The supply of dresses has dropped to the point where many trusts may soon run out,” said Dr. Samantha Batt-Rawden, president of the United Kingdom Association of Physicians. “Our data shows that almost half of all doctors performing high risk procedures … do not have access to gowns. It’s unforgivable. Doctors die. The nurses die. Front line staff must now take on the PPE problem. DAUK is working with crowdfunders, including NHS Heroes Support and Let’s Beat Covid, to help deliver PPE donations to the front lines, including 500 dresses this week. It is surprising that this effort was left to the primary care physicians who should be able to put all their energy at the service of patients in the fight against this pandemic. “
Particularly serious shortages of gowns are reported in London hospitals, with doctors and nurses from St Mary’s in Paddington raising concerns about PPE. Dr Tom Dolphin, anesthesiologist at the hospital, said on Twitter that doctors and nurses spent “more hours in the red areas [coronavirus areas] that they should, to maintain PPE inventory “and that some” do not take a break in case there is no PPE upon their return “. He said the comments did not refer to St Mary’s but more broadly reflected the experience of hospital doctors.
Despite ministers’ almost daily assurances of PPE supplies, Dolphin said, “There is a disconnect between what the government says and the reality on the ground for clinicians who cannot get PPE. Why? The Queen probably thinks that the world smells of painting, because wherever it goes, it has been freshly painted. Ministers who visit hospitals likely see people with full PEP. “
A nurse working for the same trust said that coats should be worn by staff at all times when treating Covid-19 patients. “We are told that the full PPE is only for” aerosol-generating areas “, but all healthcare workers are at risk of Covid-generating aerosols,” they said. “I have resigned myself to contracting the virus because I am not sufficiently protected.”
The Imperial College Healthcare NHS trust, which operates St Mary’s, was asked for comment.
Last weekend, Secretary of Business Alok Sharma insisted that “the government has a plan” to get PPE to where it is needed, while Interior Minister Priti Patel does not didn’t apologize for the shortages, just saying, “I’m sorry if people think there have been failures. “
The doctors’ union, the BMA, added that it had also received information from hospital staff in Yorkshire, Bedfordshire, Kingston-upon-Thames and Liverpool about the shortage of gowns. The intensive care unit at a Liverpool hospital has run out of overalls and has started to borrow PPE from a pediatric hospital, he said. A Kingston hospital ran out of gowns on Sunday, while a Yorkshire hospital also reported a severe shortage.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs said that 3.2 million eye protectors, 750,000 FFP3 masks (those offering the highest level of protection) and 130,000 gowns were among the articles. PPE that had been delivered over the weekend.
“The demand for this equipment is at unprecedented levels and several countries have imposed export bans on the sale of PPE,” they said. “We are working around the clock to provide the NHS and the social work sector in general with the equipment and support they need.”
NHS England was contacted for comment.