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Hospitals must prioritise staff safety, campaigners urge

Reports from a hospital in Stevenage suggest that those caring for patients with suspected coronavirus are being given limited protection

CAMPAIGNERS are pleading for hospitals to prioritise the safety of staff after it was revealed that doctors and nurses working in dedicated coronavirus wards have been left without full personal protective equipment (PPE).

Reports from a hospital in Stevenage suggest that those caring for patients with suspected coronavirus are being given limited protection. 

Lister Hospital, run by East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, is only providing enhanced PPE for staff who are in contact with patients requiring the use of a ventilator.

This means that many are coming into contact with Covid-19 without visors or full-length gowns. 

The issue came to light after members of Stevenage Borough Council were shown anonymised images of nurses with inadequate PPE in coronavirus wards. 

A spokesperson for the NHS trust said: “All staff who are in contact with confirmed and unconfirmed Covid-19 patients are being provided with the correct PPE in line with national clinical guidelines — including enhanced PPE for certain areas such as critical care.” 

The Morning Star understands this approach is consistent with Public Health England advice.

The revelation comes as the family of a London healthcare assistant’s family claimed that he may not have died if he had been provided with the right PPE.

Thomas Harvey, of Goodmayes Hospital, collapsed on Sunday after falling ill having helped a patient who later tested positive for Covid-19, and reportedly having being given only gloves. 

The Unite union, which has 100,000 members in the health service, is also very concerned about potential logjams in the supply system in getting PPE to the front line fast enough.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has also spoken out, claiming that members were struggling to get supplies of PPE. 

RCN Scotland director Theresa Fyffe added: “I am calling on the government to urgently prioritise the flow of equipment which they say is available. Every minute we wait is a minute too long.” 

This call was backed by Scottish Labour, who said that it was vital that all key workers were given PPE to protect themselves. 

Leader Richard Leonard added: “We need to show our duty of care to them, just as they show their duty of care to us.”

At its afternoon briefing yesterday, the Scottish government confirmed that “significant” steps had been taken to get PPE to health workers.

The Department of Health and Social Care had not responded to requests for comment at the time of going to press.

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