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AMBULANCE services are heading for a “national crisis,” with more than 4,000 workers in self-isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic, the GMB union warned today.
The union also warned that the remaining staff at work are not receiving the personal protective equipment and testing that they need, even when attending patients suspected of having Covid-19.
London, Yorkshire, North East, Wales, East Midlands, South Central, South East Coast and North West ambulance services have each reported hundreds of cases of self-isolation, the union said.
In total, there are 4,100 ambulance workers self-isolating across the eight NHS trusts.
When supplies do finally arrive, they are often out-of-date masks with stickers covering the expiry dates, the union said.
GMB national officer Rachel Harrison said: “The lack of protective equipment for our front-line workers is nothing short of a national crisis and it’s going to bring services to the brink.
“We’ve got thousands of workers self-isolating.
“Some will have the virus after working without proper protective gear, others might just have a cold and could be at work, but without testing there is no way to know. It’s creating a capacity issue and putting more people at risk.
“Out-of-date masks are being issued as standard with stickers placed over expiry dates, as if somehow that means the equipment is safe to use.
“Our members are trained in how to be safe. They know that they’re being put at risk but are worried too that lack of protection means they’re taking this virus home to their loved ones. That’s just plain wrong.
“The government need to act now to get protective equipment to the front line and immediately start testing front-line staff as a priority.”
Health Minister Helen Whately said the government is “ramping up” its ability to test health and social-care staff for the coronavirus.
She said that there is now the capacity to do 10,000 tests a day, although at the weekend about 7,000 a day were actually carried out.
“Within the next three weeks, we expect to get to 25,000 tests a day,” she told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4.
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