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by Awil Mohamoud
20 March 2020
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The government must provide Covid-19 testing and protective equipment to all NHS frontline staff treating possible cases of the virus ‘without delay’, the BMA has said.
The association said it has been informed of doctors visiting DIY stores and even building sites ‘in desperation’ to buy masks, as none are available where they work.
GPs and hospital doctors have told the BMA they are ‘putting themselves at risk’ by having to treat patients without any protective equipment.
It added the lack of sufficient and ‘reliable masks, gowns, goggles and gloves’ undermines the employer’s ‘legal, moral and ethical responsibility to protect staff’.
In cases where equipment has been provided, it has often been unsuitable or in short supply, the association added.
It has also called for coronavirus testing to be immediately extended to all healthcare workers and their households. This would ‘stop more and more staff sitting at home, self-isolating, not knowing whether they have the virus’.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said in a Parliamentary debate earlier this week that the Covid-19 tests would have to be ‘prioritised’ for people working in hospitals. He added that he ‘wants to get testing to everyone who needs it as soon as possible.’
BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘Healthcare workers should not, and do not, have to expose themselves to high risk situations without having adequate personal protection equipment (PPE).
‘The government must find a reliable way to substantially increase the production and distribution of PPE.
‘If any healthcare worker, treating someone with Covid-19 was to become ill – or worse – due to a lack of PPE, the consequences will be dire and the impact on patient care catastrophic.
‘As well as the correct PPE, it’s imperative that healthcare workers who are self-isolating, or suspect they may have the virus, are tested without further delay.’