Despite Government assurance that millions of units of personal protective equipment (PPE) have been delivered to the front line, a BMA snapshot survey with almost 2,000 responses has revealed that large numbers of doctors are being asked to care for COVID-19 patients with little or no PPE.
According to the survey, which was carried out between 3 and 6 April, more than half of doctors working in high-risk environments reported a shortage or complete lack of adequate face masks, while 65 per cent said they did not have access to eye protection. More than half said they felt pressurised to work in high-risk areas despite not having adequate PPE.
Almost 90 per cent of GPs reported either shortages or no access to eye protection and 62 per cent reported problems with supply of face masks. More than half of GPs who responded said they had to buy their own face masks or eye protection. Only 2 per cent felt fully protected against COVID-19 at work.
Just 12 per cent of hospital doctors said they felt fully protected. Twenty-seven per cent reported running low on basic anti-infection supplies such as soap.
One hospital doctor said: “The quality of our eye protection and apron is useless. Some of the PPE provided feels like a tick-box exercise just for psychological reassurance.”
Another said: “I am the only Muslim anaesthetist with a beard in my department. 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 respondent 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 harms’ way with sub-optimal protection.”