Shortages in supplies of protective equipment for health workers has led to a desperate NHS procurement chief tweeting “God help us all”.
Protective gowns for frontline staff were not included in the national pandemic stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE), it has been claimed.
The Health Care Supply Association (HCSA), which represents procurement and supply professionals within the healthcare sector in the UK, warned of “serious supply issues” in hospitals.
The HCSA has asked officials “why gowns appear never to be included in the original pandemic stockpile”.
It comes after HSCA chief officer Alan Hoskins wrote in a tweet, which has since been deleted: “What a day no gowns @NHSSupplyChain rang every number escalated to NHSE just got message back no stock can’t help can send you a ppe pack losing the will to live god help us all.”
The HSCA tweeted on Monday: “The HCSA requests urgent clarification as to why gowns appear never to be included in the original Pandemic stockpile @PHE_uk and currently there are serious supply issues at Trust level. We accept there are global supply issues but request an urgent update.”
According to official Covid guidance, gowns are necessary for staff performing “aerosol-generating procedures” – which are the medical procedures which could increase “aerosol spread of infectious agents”.
It comes after leading nurses said staff on some Covid wards are caring for patients without any PPE.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said it is “unacceptable” that weeks into the crisis some nurses are yet to be provided with the necessary PPE.
It has called for minimum basic levels of PPE to be rolled out for staff in all settings – hospitals, care homes, or in the community – but it said that this is “yet” to be provided.
Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: “It is completely unacceptable that weeks into this crisis, there are colleagues in all settings who have not been provided with personal protective equipment.
“I am hearing from nurses who are treating patients in Covid-19 wards without any protection at all. This cannot continue. They are putting themselves, their families, and their patients at risk.
“We need action, we need equipment, we need it now.”
Global shortages of the equipment medics and carers need to protect themselves against Covid-19 have led to shortfalls in the UK.
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.
Professor Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England, said 170 million items of PPE had been delivered to hospitals and clinics.
But she added that there was “certainly an acknowledgement that people need more of this”.
“Getting supplies to the frontline is absolutely critical to ensure that people feel safe.
“It comes alongside a refresh of the guidance to ensure that people are clear what equipment should be used in what circumstances,” Prof Doyle said.
An NHS Supply Chain spokeswoman said: “Gowns will be delivered to frontline staff at hospital trusts tonight and tomorrow.
“We’re working closely with our suppliers to manage stock levels of the identified key product lines outlined in the government’s guidance.
“We have stock on order from the UK and European countries in addition to suppliers based in the Far East to continue to secure a pipeline and replenish our stocks to help ensure these products are delivered to the frontline.”