Doctors and nurses told to reuse ‘single use’ PPE
MEDICAL staff have been told to reuse disposable personal protective equipment (PPE) and wear aprons if they cannot obtain suitable gowns amid fears that stocks are about to run out.
NHS trusts have been alerted and advised to make compromises on the use of kit, to ensure there is enough to go around. The Department of Health published guidance for doctors and nurses after at least 60 trusts warned they were about to run out of key supplies.
At least 50 NHS workers have died after contracting coronavirus.
The document says staff should consider the “reuse of personal protective equipment” even if designated by the manufacturer as a single-use product.
It says the Health and Safety Executive “recognises that some compromise is needed” to cope with the shortages.
The guidance says in some situations disposable gowns could be reused, with single use of such items reserved for the most high-risk procedures.
Plastic aprons could be used, along with non-fluid repellent gowns, if standard kit ran out, the advice says.
Alok Sharma, the Business Secretary, acknowledged the concern during No10’s daily briefing, saying there was a “global shortage”.
Appearing before the Commons health committee, Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, admitted the UK was “tight on gowns” but said 55,000 more were about to arrive. “I would love to be able to wave a magic wand,” he said.
Today a survey of 14,000 nurses reveals more than half of those treating possible or confirmed cases felt pressurised to work without proper PPE.
Of those treating possible patients in high-risk areas, 51 per cent reported being asked to reuse items of PPE marked “single use” by manufacturers, the Royal College of Nurses said.
Last month the Cabinet Office hired the accountancy firm Deloitte to manage the procurement of PPE from the UK and abroad, it is understood. The Government then called to action UK manufacturers. But senior sources in the manufacturing industry last night described the project as a “disaster” and said firms had struggled with communication and red tape.
Instead of identifying Uk-based supply chains, sources said, the team at Deloitte pursued factories in China,
where prices had increased and supply was short due to global demand.
Sources said part of the problem was that the NHS began buying disposable kit from China years ago to cut costs, resulting in UK suppliers closing.
“It’s been a nightmare to deal with Deloitte,” one factory owner said. “They don’t seem to understand how supply chains work, and they spent too much time going after China. Why have they barely spoken to factories in this country who know how to make this kit?”
A Deloitte spokesman said the firm “acknowledge the clear and pressing need to manufacture PPE”.
Meanwhile, a British Airways crew posted footage yesterday of a 28-hour flight paid for by the Government to ship 2.5million items of PPE from China.
Sue Ryder, the palliative care provider, said its stocks were running out.
The family of a doctor who died at Royal Berkshire Hospital after contracting coronavirus blamed his death on a lack of PPE. Dr Peter Tun, 62, had complained to senior staff after PPE was allegedly removed from his ward, his son claimed.
A spokesman for Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust said the trust had followed strict guidelines on PPE.
Hospitals have begun to sidestep the Government to buy from local factories. A Derbyshire-based fashion firm received an order for scrubs yesterday from nine hospitals. Skilled sewing machinists, who had been furloughed, were returning to work this week, the David Nieper fashion firm announced.
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We are working round the clock given the global shortage of gowns and other PPE to secure the NHS and the social care sector the equipment they need.
“New clinical advice has been issued today to make sure that if there are shortages in one area, front-line staff know what PPE to wear instead to minimise risk. This has been reviewed by the Health and Safety Executive, and is in line with WHO and CDC guidance [for] exceptional circumstances.”
“It is crucial the relevant guidance for protective equipment is followed.”