Officials insist distribution of protective equipment for NHS ‘will get better’ in coming days

PUBLISHED: 11:41 22 March 2020 | UPDATED: 11:41 22 March 2020

A pod has been set up near the main entrance to Homerton Hospital  where patients should go if they believe they are at risk. Picture: Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

A pod has been set up near the main entrance to Homerton Hospital where patients should go if they believe they are at risk. Picture: Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Distribution of the personal protective equipment (PPE) needed by frontline health professionals dealing with Covid-19 will ‘get better over the next few days’, a senior figure in the NHS has pledged.

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Jason Leitch, the national clinical director of healthcare quality and strategy, insisted there was sufficient supply of items, amid concerns that not all medical and care workers who need such items have been provided with them.

However he said the distribution of such items had been “challenging”, as the health service tries to get protective equipment out to more people than normal.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, he said that the coronavirus pandemic had come “on us really fast”.

Leitch said: “I know there is enough supply, the distribution has been challenging, because we’re adding in new places, we’re adding in care homes, we’re adding in community pharmacies.

“We’ve not had to do regular PPE transmission to those places before, so that is causing some individual challenges around the four UK countries.

“The third thing is we have to train, particularly the high-end people, the intensive care nurses and those we are training up to help us in intensive care, to know how to work these masks.”

He told how the most protective “high-end” masks were “uncomfortable” for staff to wear, saying: “I have worn them in theatre and they are not fun, they are sore over a long time”.

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He also stressed that “you have to make sure the fit is right, so you have to be trained in how to do it for yourselves and also how to help others”.

Leitch said: “I am confident that the beginning of that supply chain is robust and now the distribution will get better over the next few days.

“And then the training inside the trusts in England and the health boards in Scotland is now going much better.”

It comes as a group of almost 4,000 NHS workers have launched a desperate plea to Boris Johnson to ensure they have adequate protective equipment to deal with the coronavirus crisis.

In an open letter to the Sunday Times, the medics have called on the prime minister to “protect the lives of the life-savers” and resolve the “unacceptable” shortage of protective equipment.

The group said many medical workers are “putting their lives on the line every day” by treating coronavirus patients without appropriate protection, and they called on Johnson to ensure an adequate supply of masks, safety glasses, gloves, aprons and protective suits.

The letter, signed by 3,963 frontline NHS staff, reads: “Front-line doctors have been telling us for weeks that they do not feel safe at work.

“Intensive care doctors and anaesthetists have told us they have been carrying out the highest-risk procedure, putting a patient on a ventilator, with masks that expired in 2015.”

“GPs have told us they feel abandoned; many have been left without any protection for weeks and do not even have simple masks to protect them if a patient comes in with symptoms of Covid-19,” it continued.

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