NHS medics 'must wear full PPE gear within 3ft of a corona patient'

Shocking photo shows nurse treating a coronavirus patient protected by just an apron and gloves – as government tells medics they MUST wear full PPE gear if they come within 3ft of infected patient

  • Public Health England issued stricter guidance on protective equipment for NHS
  • Came as a brave NHS nurse was seen without vital kit amid worldwide shortages
  • Medics at some hospitals have admitted to hiding equipment out of ‘desperation’
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

NHS medics must wear full protective equipment if they come within three feet of a coronavirus patient, the government warned today, as shortages of the gear saw a brave nurse forced to dress in just an apron and gloves.

Public Health England has issued stricter guidance on personal protective equipment (PPE), making it a requirement to wear a face mask, gloves, an apron and eye-protection as a shield against infectious airborne droplets. 

A global shortage of the equipment medics and carers need to protect themselves against Covid-19 have led to shortfalls in the UK, with warnings the lives of thousands of NHS staff are being put at risk. 

Nurse 1, without required protective equipment: A brave nurse who was spotted wearing just a basic apron and gloves to protect herself from coronavirus amid a global shortage of protective equipment 

Nurse 2, with required protective equipment: A clinician is pictured wearing full protective kit, including a mask, gloves and a visor, at a coronavirus testing station

How the two pictures compare 

Nurse 1 – She is seen only wearing an apron and gloves, putting her at risk of coming into contact with infectious airborne droplets from when a patient sneezes; 

Nurse 2 – She has a face mask, a plastic visor to protect the eyes, as well as gloves and an apron. 

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick told a Downing Street briefing yesterday that 170 million masks, some 42.8 million gloves, 13.7 million aprons, 182,000 gowns, almost 10 million items of cleaning equipment and 2.3 million pairs of eye protectors were being delivered to frontline staff.

He said: ‘Every single GP practice, dental practice and community pharmacy has had a PPE delivery. 

‘All care homes, hospices, and home care providers have, or will shortly, receive a delivery.’

And as the UK’s death toll rose by another 209 to reach 1,288 yesterday, it also emerged:

  • Consultant Amged El-Hawrani became the first front-line NHS worker to die from the virus;
  • Deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries said it was likely to be three to six months before the lockdown was lifted;
  • Boris Johnson continued to chair meetings from isolation in Downing Street;
  • Rail journeys were down by 85 per cent and bus trips fell by three quarters;
  • Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab prepared to unveil a deal with commercial airlines to repatriate tens of thousands of stranded British citizens;
  • Rules were relaxed for two years to allow women to self-administer abortion pills at home rather than visiting a clinic;
  • Michael Gove took a swipe at China, saying its failure to be open about the virus had hindered the world’s response;
  • The number volunteering to help the NHS rose beyond the target 750,000. 

Medics today spoke of their concerns at not being adequately protected, as companies including the chemicals giant Ineos and beer producer Brewdog unveiled plans to mass manufacture hand gels for the NHS. 

One obstetrician working in a hospital in London said protective gear is being kept under lock and key by senior staff.

Another doctor compared the situation to sending a soldier to war without the necessary equipment while a junior doctor said it feels like it is ‘inevitable’ that they will contract the virus due to a lack of PPE.

‘There is some, but now we’re in a situation where people are having to hide them and store them for their own staff,’ the obstetrician, who chose to speak anonymously, said. ‘Our bosses are having to store a certain number.

‘We are working in a hospital where there are key workers – including orderlies, porters, healthcare assistant – they have a right to be protected too.

‘Our orderly was walking around the ward yesterday with a sleep mask over her face – an eye mask over her nose and mouth as a make-shift mask. They’ve said she doesn’t need a mask because she’s not in contact with Covid patients but so many patients are asymptomatic. We should be managing patients as though everybody has it.’

She added: ‘There is not enough kit. PPE is locked away in our hospital and only one person has got the key because people are panicking. So, some people are going in and grabbing some of the stuff because they want to walk around with a mask.

‘What people are doing is they are hiding them because they don’t want just anyone grabbing the kit, so the bottom line is there is not enough kit.

‘[It is] out of sheer desperation, there is just not enough.’

Public Health England today issued stricter guidance on personal protective equipment (PPE) when within three feet of a coronavirus patient 

It is an outrage that there have been horrendous shortages, mistakes and confusion around PPE, for it risks destabilising the NHS effort to tackle the virus. A clinician is pictured wearing a mask and gloves at a coronavirus testing station

Another frontline NHS doctor, who also worked for the Government in west Africa during the Ebola crisis, said some fellow workers are saying they are sick as they fear the PPE provisions are inadequate.

‘All my colleagues are quite nervous – some people are going off sick because they don’t feel safe,’ the doctor, who asked to remain anonymous, said.

‘Others are seeking placement elsewhere so they are not frontline, again because of the lack of PPE.

Engineers develop new coronavirus breathing device that could be in hospitals within DAYS 

Formula One engineers have helped develop a new breathing device for coronavirus patients.

The Mercedes team and academics at University College London took just four days to produce the first ‘continuous positive airway pressure’ (CPAP) device – 100 of which are now going into clinical trials at a hospital in north London.

The equipment – which pushes air and oxygen into a mask to inflate a patient’s lungs – is an alternative treatment for people too frail to undergo invasive ventilation procedures.

It has already been signed off as safe for medical use by the MHRA safety watchdog and should complete its clinical trial to prove it helps patients at University College London Hospital by the end of this week.

The technique has been widely used in Italy, where ventilators are in short supply.

Ventilator ‘rationing’ has also begun at one London hospital, with bosses ruling that only patients with a ‘reasonable chance of survival’ should be allowed them.  

‘The closed WhatsApp groups are awash with fear, anger and confusion around the issues regarding PPE.’

A junior doctor at the Royal Bolton Hospital in Greater Manchester said PPE was the main concern for health workers.

He said: ‘I just think at the moment the main thing from a healthcare worker is our concerns about PPE.

‘You wouldn’t send a soldier out without the necessary equipment so why are healthcare professionals not being provided the adequate PPE?’

Another junior doctor in Norfolk also told the news agency: ‘There’s not enough, there’s nowhere near enough.

‘There is such a shortage, so we feel like it’s inevitable we’re going to get sick. Infection control tells you one thing, the government are advising another thing, there’s so much conflicting advice.’

The World Health Organisation has warned that the ‘chronic’ shortage of PPE is threatening ‘our collective ability to save lives’.

On Friday, WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: ‘When health workers are at risk, we’re all at risk.’ 

The Department of Health and Social Care said it has issued millions of pieces of equipment and set up a national helpline so those in need can ask for more. 

It came as the actor James McAvoy has called on the public to help save lives by donating money to buy protective gear for NHS workers – as he pledged £250,000 to the cause himself.

He helped the Masks for NHS Heroes campaign smash through its £200,000 target just three days after going live. 

Last night it stood at more than £700,000 after around 10,000 people pledged their support. 

The donations will buy masks, visors, gowns and gloves from global supply chains to be rushed to the UK by air freight.  

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