Almost half (48 per cent) of the doctors in England working during the coronavirus pandemic have had to purchase their own personal protective equipment (PPE), or received it via donation from a charity or local business, according to a new survey by the British Medical Association (BMA).
The BMA’s chair, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said the numbers should be viewed as a “damning indictment of the government’s abject failure” to keep NHS staff safe.
Collating responses from 16,343 doctors, the trade union’s survey also found that the lack of PPE was causing a spike in poor mental health among frontline workers. More than a quarter (28 per cent) of doctors said they were suffering from symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress or burnout, that were exacerbated by feeling unsafe. Sixty per cent of respondents said they felt only partly or not at all protected in their place of work, as 30 per cent admitted that they had not raised the issue of PPE shortages or staff testing with their line managers, because they did not think it would make a difference.
As part of the BMA survey, doctors were given a space to leave comments. One respondent labelled the PPE situation as “an outrage for all staff”. Another criticised the quality of what PPE was available, pointing to “flimsy aprons and cheap surgical masks”.
Nagpaul added: “The government has five tests it has said must be met to ease lockdown – the first of which is ‘making sure the NHS can cope’. Six weeks into this crisis, how can the Government be confident that this condition is anywhere near being met, or that the pandemic is under control, when the very people on the frontline are not being made safe?”