BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul has told a Parliamentary committee that GPs were forced to put their own health at risk in the early part of the pandemic owing to absent or inadequate PPE.
Addressing the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee on 10 December, Dr Nagpaul said GPs went weeks without any PPE supplies from the Department of Health, despite assurances that adequate supplies existed.
He said: “What we were told in February and early March from the Government was that there were adequate plans and adequate stockpiles, the message to us was ‘don't worry, we have enough’.
“As the weeks went by in March, we were getting reports increasingly from doctors that they didn’t have access to the PPE they needed.
“What was even worse for those of us in general practice was that we tried to buy our own and when we looked at all our normal suppliers they had run out because much of those supplies had been directed to the NHS and weren’t available,” he told the committee.
Citing his own experience, he told the committee that his practice had been forced to source their own protective equipment from alternative sources including online retailer Amazon and the construction industry.
“We paid £150 for five FFP2 masks, that was how desperate we had become,” he said.
He said the BMA had received around 100 contacts from PPE providers who claimed to have “hit a brick wall” in trying to contact the Department of Health to offer their services, with the BMA forwarding on these communications to the Government.
When asked what lessons could be learnt from Covid-19, he said that it was essential that the Government ensure stockpiles of PPE were already in place ahead of a potential future pandemic, and that there was an adequate manufacturing base in place to produce additional supplies domestically, rather than having to rely on sourcing from abroad.