The BMA is asking Boris Johnson to make sure that healthcare workers have the proper protection for caring for patients with Covid-19 as well as being given priority testing.
The call comes amid mounting evidence that medical professionals are being put at risk when caring for those with, or suspected of having, Covid-19 as there is insufficient equipment available.
The letter1, which was sent to 10 Downing Street today, calls for:
• Urgent clarification on the apparent discrepancy between the level of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) recommended in WHO guidance and that in PHE’s IPC guidance
• This is in particular reference to the WHO recommended use of gowns and eye protection for staff in all healthcare settings where Covid-19 is suspected, as compared to PHE’s, which does not specify this
• Healthcare workers and their families to be treated as a priority for testing to avoid unnecessary self-isolation
Commenting on the letter, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said:
“While we have been advised by government that there are sufficient central stocks of the supply of PPE, the reality is that doctors on the frontline are experiencing shortages and many are extremely anxious over the adequacy of the equipment currently being provided to healthcare professionals.
“At a time when we need our NHS more than ever, staff must be properly protected and should not be exposing themselves to high-risk situations where they could become infected – this could have a potentially devastating impact on our workforce capacity and effectiveness of our already-stretched health service.
“There is further concern that the advice from WHO and PHE differs in relation to what doctors should be wearing to protect themselves, and it’s essential that we get clarification on this as soon as possible, along with the right equipment to follow guidance correctly.
“As the letter lays out, we also need to see NHS staff and their household members prioritised in testing. Significant numbers of NHS staff are self-isolating for up to 14 days not knowing whether they have the virus or not, removing them from frontline duties and leaving their colleagues in ever more stretched working environments
“Doctors are increasingly contacting us stating that they want to return to work if they and their household is negative for the virus but cannot do so due to a lack of being tested.
“Every day that goes by is resulting in increased shortages of frontline staff and we urge the Prime Minister to enable this to happen with immediate effect.
“NHS staff are working tirelessly to keep the public safe during these uncertain times, but the only way we can truly guarantee that is if we are given the resources we need, not only for our own protection, but also, and more importantly, that of our patients.”
Notes to editors
1. Read the full letter here.