UK COVID-19 Daily: major PPE delivery delayed

  • Tim Locke, Medscape.com

  • UK Medical News
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These are the UK coronavirus stories you need to know about Sunday.

Major PPE Delivery Delayed

On Saturday, the Government promised that 84 tonnes of PPE, including gowns, would arrive from Turkey on Sunday. However, the shipment has been delayed. 

BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul commented: "For doctors and healthcare staff working on the front line now and in the coming days, the announcement that the expected arrival of PPE from Turkey has been delayed for an indefinite time is extremely concerning.”

He continued: "This really is a matter of life and death. In what is an incredibly challenging time, doctors and healthcare staff should feel as equipped and supported as they need to be able to deliver care for patients. Instead, they are left fearful for their own health and safety – this is shameful."

There's been further criticism of the emergency guidance to reuse gowns when PPE stock runs low. 

Professor Michael Griffin, president of The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, said: "We wish to make it clear that The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh was not involved in the production of this guidance and requests further clarification. It is imperative that appropriate PPE is sourced and made available to the extended surgical team to ensure that those who still require important emergency, cancer and trauma surgical care, now and in the immediate future, are able to be treated safely and expediently."

He continued: "There is a significant risk that this will cause confusion and anxiety for our frontline surgeons and doctors." 

Echoing Saturday's message from England's RCS, he said: "Surgeons who cannot access fluid repellent gowns or coveralls should not put themselves, their teams, or their patients at risk." 

The London 2012 Olympics Chief Executive Lord Deighton has been brought in by the Government to lead on PPE production. In a statement, he said: "Countries around the world face unprecedented demand for personal protective equipment and this necessitates an equally unprecedented domestic manufacturing response.

"I look forward to bringing together new partners in the pursuit of this single goal: to get our dedicated frontline workers the essential equipment they need.

"This effort calls for exceptional teamwork and I am confident that we, together, will rise to this challenge."

The Scottish Government reported the arrival of a charter flight carrying PPE and other supplies, including around 10 million face masks.

Scotland's Trade Minister Ivan McKee said: "Protecting staff working on the front line is an absolute priority which is why we have been working at pace with the NHS and manufacturers both in Scotland and internationally to improve and increase the supply of PPE."

'Adult Conversation'

Dr Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer for England said: "I might say from my own professional perspective,  we could perhaps have a more adult and more detailed conversation about PPE supplies.

For example, quite rightly the conversation at the moment is very much focused on gown supplies. In earlier weeks I'm very aware of consideration of eyewear for example and goggles and masks. 

"I think it is important to remember that although there may be elements of distribution problems across the UK at different times and in different places, this is a huge pull on services which we have never seen before.

“We have managed actually despite signalling many potential shortfalls to continue to supply going forward."  

She added: "The Health Minister is updated on a daily basis on some quite detailed information about PPE run rates and flow rates, and we look ahead all of the time. 

"Although there is massive ordering ongoing it's not always possible to predict that the order that we think is going to arrive actually appears in quite the same proportions and content as we planned, and obviously that is an ongoing monitoring activity, there are meetings going on two or three times a day on a daily basis." 

The NHS Confederation which represents hospitals said it would support any doctor or nurse who refused to go to work over PPE concerns. Dr Harries was asked to comment: "I'm going to comment as a health care professional. If I happen to be working on the front line today I have a responsibility to look after patients to the best of my ability to protect my colleagues and my staff, and to manage my practice safely."

She continued: "We have very detailed guidance now about what PPE should be used in which settings. It is actually quite complex which is why as a professional I think there is a responsibility on me to understand that.

"It is the fact that we are in a global shortage, whether we are in the UK, or whether we are internationally actually, we all need to use this PPE carefully."

Doctors' Burnout

The BMA released more results from its COVID-19 snapshot survey of more than 6000 members. It found 44.47% of UK doctors are experiencing burnout, depression, or anxiety due to working in the pandemic. Of the rest, 44.53% did not have those experiences, and others didn't know, or preferred not to say. 

When it came to feeling supported by their national Government, 51.8% said 'not very' or 'not at all'. Of the rest, 45.92% said 'very' or 'to some extent', and 2.27% didn't know.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said: "This is a deeply disturbing finding and demonstrates the toll this pandemic is having on the wellbeing of frontline doctors."

Deaths

A further 596 UK hospital COVID-19 deaths were reported on Sunday, the lowest daily rise for almost 2 weeks. The total is now 16,060.

"It's not fair to say that we're past the peak," Dr Harries said.

"We could jump to all sorts of positive conclusions about that but we shouldn't. We should be extremely guarded. It's a weekend day, we know that hospitals will tend to report later on. I would anticipate those numbers will go up tomorrow." 

Dr Harries said that when it came to confirmed cases: "Although there is some variation on a day to day basis, in general, there is a trend for the number of cases to be plateauing out now, and that is despite increased testing capacity." 

Commenting via the Science Media Centre Professor James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute, and the University of Oxford, said: "That the announced total of deaths has decreased is of course welcome. However, the UK figures are highly volatile, particularly with delays in reporting over the weekend so today’s number must be regarded with caution. We are still to fully count deaths in care homes or the community which are sadly certain to be significant."

Of the 482 deaths in English hospitals, patients were aged between 34 and 104. Of these, six patients aged between 52 and 92 years had no known underlying health condition. 

Among recently announced healthcare deaths was 68-year-old Marie Curie cancer nurse Barbara Sage

The charity's Chief Executive Matthew Reed said in a statement: "Barbara’s death is a devastating loss for the whole Marie Curie Team, and I know everyone who worked with Barbara over the last 14 years can attest to her professionalism and commitment. I know she will be very greatly missed."

Her daughter Donna said: "She was a very warm person… I suppose she had all the normal attributes of a Marie Curie Nurse. I guess you have to be like that in their line of work, don't you? She was dedicated to caring for people."

Radiographer Simon Guest who worked at Furness General Hospital in Barrow, Cumbria, was also remembered. 

University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust said: "Simon was special, a true gentleman and a great role model to all.

"He was a gentle soul and so very caring with both his patients and NHS colleagues."
 
In Memoriam: Healthcare Workers Who Have Died of COVID-19.

Did the UK 'Sleepwalk Into Disaster'?

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove denied various claims made in the Sunday Times about the Government's handling of the pandemic. 

The paper described "38 days when Britain sleepwalked into disaster", and said "Boris Johnson skipped five COBRA meetings on the virus, calls to order protective gear were ignored and scientists’ warnings fell on deaf ears. Failings in February may have cost thousands of lives."

In broadcast interviews, Mr Gove said the claims about the emergency COBRA meetings were "grotesque". 

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told the Downing Street briefing: "I spent many hours attending COBRA meetings where it's actually led by the departmental minister."

It was also claimed in the Sunday Times that schools would re-open in mid-May. Mr Williamson told the daily briefing: "I can't give you a date." He said no changes would be made until the Government's tests for lifting lockdown measures were met.

Testing

In the latest 24 hour reporting period 21,626 COVID-19 tests were carried out. The Government target is 100,000 tests a day by the end of the month.

Wales is introducing an online booking system for key worker COVID-19 testing with help from military experts on logistics.  

Health Minister Vaughan Gething said in a statement: "As the daily number of tests have not been matching the capacity we’ve built up in Wales, I ordered a rapid review of the current system." 

Adapted from Medscape UK .