In the face of delays and the delivery of fewer personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies than were promised from Turkey, Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, has stated that this should be a ‘lesson for the Government’ on making promises before supplies have arrived and been checked.
There are shortages of PPE equipment across Britain, which have led to concerns that healthcare professionals are working without the proper protective gear when fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. The original guidelines from Public Health England (PHE) regarding the proper equipment stipulated that full-length, waterproof surgical gowns should be worn for all high-risk procedures in hospitals. However, supply shortages and distribution challenges quickly became apparent and PHE released updated guidelines that recommended use of a plastic apron and coveralls when supplies of suitable gowns ran out. This abrupt change sparked fears that healthcare professionals would be at greater risk of contracting the virus.
A Royal College of Nursing survey revealed that half of nursing staff have been under pressure to work without the levels of protection set out in the official guidance. Half of nursing staff working in high-pressure areas have reported that they are being asked to reuse ‘single-use’ items of PPE, while treating possible or confirmed cases of COVID-19. In response to these shocking figures, Dame Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the RCN, said ‘This crisis is taking the lives of nursing staff, and their colleagues feel they’ve been left exposed. All decision makers involved here need to get an urgent grip on the situation’.
The delay in delivery of supplies from Turkey and the subsequent discovery that only half of the promised supplies were delivered has frustrated many. The NHS Confederation, which represents organisations that provide NHS services in England, released two statements, first when the delay in delivery was reported and then following the discovery of the diminished supply. Both statements contain a similar message– that the government making promises of supplies before it is clear that they can deliver ‘makes a difficult situation worse’.