Many UK doctors are still without the equipment they need to keep themselves safe as they treat coronavirus patients, a major survey of British doctors has found.
This is despite repeated promises from the UK government that problems with supply are being dealt with, the British Medical Association (BMA) said in a news release Saturday.
Gowns and eye protection are in particularly short supply, the trade union’s survey indicated.
While the findings showed some improvement from the BMA’s previous survey, published on April 7, the union urged the government to do more to resolve the issues around supply of personal protective equipment.
“Two months into the Covid-19 crisis in Britain, we shouldn’t still be hearing that doctors feel unprotected when they go to work,” said Dr. Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair.
“The government says that 1 billion items will soon have been shipped, and while there have been signs of improvement, our research clearly shows that equipment is not reaching all doctors working on the front line.”
More than 6,000 doctors from across the UK responded to the survey, the BMA said.
Around half of doctors working in high-risk areas said there were shortages or no supply at all of long-sleeved disposable gowns and disposable goggles, while just over half said the same for full-face visors, the BMA said.
Doctors working in general practice also reported shortages of eye protection.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Friday that he could not guarantee that hospitals would not run out of gowns this weekend, but that the government was doing all it could to ensure supply.
A day earlier, Hancock confirmed that 27 workers from Britain’s National Health Service had died from the coronavirus. Speaking in a BBC interview, he called the NHS workers’ deaths “incredibly heartrending.”
The UK government is facing increasing pressure to do more to ensure the safety of frontline health and social care workers.