Suffolk NHS worker brands national coronavirus protection advice ‘woefully inadequate’
RACHEL EDGE/STEVE PARSONS/PA WIRE/PA IMAGES
Some NHS staff fighting coronavirus on the frontline in Suffolk say national guidelines on protection equipment are “woefully inadequate”.
A concerned Ipswich Hospital worker said there is a fear of spreading COVID-19 to their families – and a lack of adequate protection from coronavirus victims.
Hospital chiefs acknowledged this as a concern and said the “only way through this is by pulling together”, adding that “they are listening”.
MORE: ‘Unless you stay at home more people will die’ says hospital chief
One worker, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “In Italy, they are wearing Hazmat suits.
“Here, we’re being given plastic aprons and told to wear our own uniforms.
“When the COVID-19 procedure was brought in a week or so ago we were told to wear hospital scrubs to limit the spread of infection which we did, I thought that was a good idea and seemed sensible.
MORE: NHS heroes share pictures of staff working hard as coronavirus pressure rises
The staff member added: “A week later and we’re wearing our own uniforms again, which we’re having to take home and wash and potentially spreading germs to our families.
“They’re now saying COVID can only survive for 20 minutes on cloth, but that’s not what the WHO guidelines say (2-3 days) so we’re still worried.
Nick Hulme, chief executive at the East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust which runs Ipswich Hospital, said the trust recognises the challenges its teams are facing are like none they will have ever dealt with before.
But bosses are working hard to support them, he said, and a dedicated staff helpline is running from 6am to 8pm.
Fears shared by NHS staff in Suffolk echo the national picture – which has over the past week seen medics liken themselves to “cannon fodder” due to a lack of personal protective equipment for staff.
MORE: More than 8,000 coronavirus cases confirmed in UK after biggest daily rise so far
“My biggest concern is that we knew this was coming – and yet protection for frontline workers is still woefully inadequate,” the concerned worker added. “I know this is happening up and down the country, not just at Ipswich.
“We’re losing three staff per shift to the isolation unit in the emergency department and relying a lot on agencies.
“So many staff are going off sick with symptoms – they have to be off for two weeks – because there’s a major lack of testing.
“Boris has apparently got thousands of 45-minute tests but this will be a drop in the ocean – we need millions of them.”
MORE: Your coronavirus questions answered as Suffolk goes into lockdown
Earlier this week, health secretary and West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock insisted all major hospitals had received deliveries of essential personal protective equipment.
‘We are listening’
Mr Hulme said: “This is an unprecedented time for everyone working in the NHS and it is a rapidly changing situation. The safety of our staff and our patients is, and always will be, our highest priority.
“Across our services and hospital sites our staff are working tirelessly to prepare us for the inevitable surge of activity that we will experience over the next few weeks and possibly months.
“We are all coming together to do our very best in those preparations. The team spirit I have already witnessed is outstanding and we have been overwhelmed by the support and kindness shown to us by the communities we serve.
MORE: Thank you all - your messages for Suffolk’s community heroes during coronavirus crisis
He added: “I understand our staff, like colleagues up and down the country, are concerned about Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). ESNEFT continues to follow the national advice from Public Health England (PHE) for the use of PPE for our staff.
“The only way we are going to get through this is by pulling together and I would urge anyone with concerns to share them with us. We are listening.”