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Suffolk’s nurses ‘giving their all’ – but they need to feel protected

PUBLISHED: 16:24 02 April 2020 | UPDATED: 16:24 02 April 2020

Medical staff wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) - inset Teresa Budrey, eastern region director at the Royal College of Nursing  Pictures: Jacob King/PA Wire/RCN

Medical staff wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) - inset Teresa Budrey, eastern region director at the Royal College of Nursing Pictures: Jacob King/PA Wire/RCN

Jacob King/PA WIRE/ROYAL COLLEGE OF NURSING

Protective equipment shielding Suffolk’s frontline nurses from coronavirus is arriving daily – but there is not enough to build up stock, union leaders have warned.

Houses in the road have been displaying thank you messages to NHS staff and key workers during the coronavirus crisis  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNHouses in the road have been displaying thank you messages to NHS staff and key workers during the coronavirus crisis Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

In an Q&A with this newspaper, Teresa Budrey, the east of England regional director for the Royal College of Nursing, revealed the main Covid-19 concerns nurses across East Anglia have shared since the crisis began.

Criticising conflicting guidance nationally about whether equipment will keep medics safe, she said nurses in the region have shown themselves to be “amazing”, with student nurses going into hospitals earlier than intended and hundreds of staff coming out of retirement.

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Her comments come ahead of official guidance due to be published today telling NHS workers exactly what kit will give them the highest level of protection from Covid-19. The Government previously said there is enough PPE stock to support authorities battling high demand.

Q: Have nurses got enough personal protective equipment (PPE)?

A: “What we’re hearing is that PPE is arriving daily into our hospitals – what they’re not able to do is build up any stock – so they’re getting what they need every day, but they’ve got no reassurance that they’ve got longer term stock so when they run out they do run out.

“We’ve had issues down in Essex a couple of weekends ago where they ran out of hand soap – they’re not being able to build up stock.

“The reassurance is across most areas they are saying they have what they need, the difficulty is that there’s conflicting guidance at the moment between what NHS England say and the World Health Organisation say, and it’s different.

“We’re expecting new guidance out in the next couple of hours today and we’re expecting that to be clearer.

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“There’s been a real lack of clarity. As far as we’re concerned, my view and the view from the nurses in this region is that everybody should have the equipment they are risk assessed to need, to do the job they need to do.

“We will be supporting our members to have discussions with their employer if they haven’t got what they need.

“They can’t deliver safe care for themselves nor for patients.

“We need our nursing workforce, we need to hang onto them, we need them in the workplace and we need them safe and well.

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“We need them not to be worried about taking the virus home to their families, and vulnerable people in their homes.

“That’s what many nurses are calling through to say, to ask us questions, for instance things like ‘what if I go to work and I don’t have the right equipment, I catch it and take it home to my family, I have someone that’s diabetic or asthmatic or in my home’, so real concerns.”

Q: How is the workforce in the east coping generally?

A: “Our nurses are amazing, and our student nurses that are going into the workforce a bit earlier than they’d intended, and those hundreds of staff that have signed up to go back into practice or have retired recently.

“We need to be really clear with employers about PPE because it’s really important.

One of the other concerns we’ve picked up, and it’s a minor concern, is that when equipment comes sometimes it’s from different manufacturers – with masks in particular, which need fit testing, nurses and staff wearing them need to be reassured they are fit to do the job they’re meant to do, and that takes a little bit more time.

MORE: Ipswich Hospital worker brands national PPE advice ‘woefully inadequate’

“We’ve had some concerns across the region, not in Suffolk, but some hospitals are struggling with showering facilities.

“We believe there are hospitals that are having showering facilities put in, such as in Colchester which is one of the areas which are making sure they’ve got the right showering facilities – because they’re not usually needed on the level at which they are now.”

Q: Are they being supported?

A: “Staff welfare as far as I’m concerned from our NHS trusts in the east of England is high priority, we’re hearing every day.

“Free parking is happening now across the region, that’s definitely in place now, making sure they’ve got the ability to fulfil some basic shopping needs, and the volunteer workforce across Suffolk has been incredible.

“But I think for our nurses their worries are equipment – PPE needs to be a top priority, every nurse, not just NHS nurses but we have to think about our community nurses and our carers who are going into multiple homes every day to deliver care, support workers in the care home sector.

Q: What about testing – are there any signs of the national rollout?

A: “We’re also hoping for more clarity on how we determine who is suspected of having the virus, how do we help our nurses to have the confidence to deliver the care they are driven to deliver, safely.

“I know we had some test sites set up for the public initially, there was a site in Eye, the government’s plan is to test NHS staff that are suspected of having it so we can get them back into work.”

What has the Government said in response?

A Government spokesman said: “There is enough PPE stock to support authorities that find themselves with high demand.

“This co-ordination effort will urgently identify any issues so that areas can receive any stock they require quickly.

“We are working closely with planners for local areas to monitor levels of personal protective equipment and ensure councils/authorities have the supplies they need. This work started five days ago.

“The Government has given councils an additional £1.6 billion to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and over the last two weeks we have delivered more than 390 million items of PPE to frontline staff in hospitals, ambulance trusts, GP practices, pharmacists, care homes and hospices.”

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