The news that 50 doctors in Italy have died from Covid-19 serves as an ‘urgent warning’ to the UK Government to provide suitable and sufficient PPE to NHS staff, the BMA has stressed.
The union, yesterday, sent a letter of condolence to Italy’s medical associations, and condemned the UK Government for, in some cases, rationing PPE and providing below par equipment.
This, it said, poses an ‘unacceptable risk to the health and lives of both doctors and patients’.
The warning comes as NHS England has confirmed the first coronavirus death of a UK doctor. Last week, prime minister Boris Johnson suggested that coronavirus deaths in the UK may be roughly two weeks behind the numbers in Italy.
In a statement, Dr Nagpaul said: ‘The BMA has been unequivocal in its warnings about PPE: without a proper supply and adequate protection, doctors will become infected and ill, and some will die. We must learn from others. We have no time to waste and the Government must act now.’
Last week, NHS England announced that every GP practice in the UK had received a PPE shipment. However, GPs in one area said their CCG told them they had to source their own.
On Friday (27 March), NHS England told GPs they can request emergency deliveries of PPE – to arrive within 72 hours – to relieve ‘immediate short-term issues’.
In the letter to Government, BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul wrote: ‘British doctors have looked to Italy with trepidation as the spread here continues, as we are naturally concerned that we may face a challenge of the same scale within weeks.
‘The bravery and compassion shown by our Italian colleagues in the most harrowing circumstances is an inspiration to us.
‘We have heard Italy’s doctors raise concerns about a lack of personal protective equipment – and now we see the grave impact this has had.’
GPs can raise requests for the emergency kits through the NSDR 24/7 telephone helpline: 0800 915 9964.