More than a third of doctors in areas at high-risk from coronavirus are still unable to access personal protection equipment (PPE), a survey has found.
This has prompted doctors to admit they may have to choose between saving their own lives or those of their patients.
According to the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), medical professionals working in areas posing a risk to their own health struggle to get hold of long-sleeved disposable gowns and full-face visors.
In addition, almost half of the survey respondents working in areas with confirmed or possible cases of coronavirus are occasionally forced into working without eye protection.
The data comes after weeks of criticism towards the government for failing to provide the protection needed for frontline workers.
Despite assurances that the government is working on increasing the supply of suitable equipment, the RCP said general access to PPE had worsened this month.
The RCP also revealed that almost a third of respondents cannot access testing for a symptomatic member of their household.
Professor Andrew Goddard, RCP president, said to the PA news agency: ‘We’re living through the darkest times the NHS has ever faced and this survey shows the reality of the situation facing hospital doctors at the moment.
‘The lack of PPE remains their biggest concern and it is truly terrible that supply has worsened over the past three weeks rather than improved.’
He added that healthcare professionals ‘could not care less’ about the billions of PPE pieces ordered, if they are not provided when needed.
Dr Matthew Roycroft, joint chairman of the trainees committee at the RCP, added: ‘As a junior doctor working on the front line of the NHS, I can say without hesitation that this has been the hardest time of my career.
‘Not only are many trainees working outside of our speciality areas, but we are also doing so without fully trusting that the government will support us when it comes to treating those with Covid-19.
‘Without the right PPE my colleagues and I may find ourselves with the most awful of conundrums on our hands – having to choose between protecting our own lives or protecting those of the patients we treat.
‘This isn’t what any of us signed up for, and certainly isn’t a decision any doctor should have to make.’