GP surgery asked public to donate face masks as MPs speak out on PPE demand
PUBLISHED: 06:17 03 April 2020 | UPDATED: 14:17 03 April 2020
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Equipment to protect NHS staff against coronavirus ran so low at one doctors’ surgery that it had to ask carpenters and schools to help.
The latest example of the NHS struggling under unprecedented demand to get personal protective equipment (PPE) to all medics came as:
•The region’s Conservative MPs said they were pushing the government for more supplies;
•A paramedic said around a third of his colleagues were off work with coronavirus symptoms or self-isolating;
•The country carried out a record 10,000 tests in one day.
On Monday, Orchard surgery in Dereham wrote on its Facebook page that its stock of goggles and masks was getting “perilously low”.
“Our last supply of masks was received over four weeks ago, and despite numerous promises no further supplies have been received,” it said.
“If there are any builders, carpenters and the like with surplus stocks we would be most grateful.”
The surgery said later that day the public had already stepped forward with enough equipment to see it through until its next delivery.
The government said the NHS had delivered almost 400 million pieces of PPE in the last two weeks.
A Norfolk paramedic, meanwhile, said that while basic protection such as gloves and surgical masks had got to the frontline, they were short of overalls and respirator masks needed to protect them from the most serious cases.
He added that around a third of his frontline colleagues were either off sick or self-isolating, highlighting the need for NHS staff to be tested.
“We are waiting for the storm to hit,” the paramedic added.
Prime minister Boris Johnson said testing was “the way through” the crisis and on Wednesday a record 10,657 people were tested.
But the chair of one NHS Trust said there had been a “logistical failure” on testing.
“We have not got testing in place and I’m frankly confused by how Germany can do 70,000 tests a day while we (the UK) are struggling to get 10,000. We need to sort it out quickly.”
•What do our MPs say?
This newspaper asked all the region’s Conservative MPs about these issues.
George Freeman, MP for Mid Norfolk, said enough PPE had been sourced but logistical problems had meant it took too long to reach Norfolk.
However he was told on Thursday that this equipment had now arrived.
South Norfolk MP, Richard Bacon, said he had been pressing the Department of Health about PPE for “many days”.
“In fairness to them I think they are now moving heaven and earth to distribute PPE quickly.”
North Norfolk MP, Duncan Baker, said as the oldest population in the country his constituency desperately needed supplies.
“Where there have been immediate PPE shortages, I’ve been hugely active to get vital resources to primary care givers in rural locations,” he said.
“I’m in regular call sessions with senior MPs feeding back the issues in North Norfolk.”
Norwich North MP Chloe Smith defended the government’s record.
“The county’s hospitals say they have enough stocks of PPE, and I’m in touch with doctors, dentists and care homes in my constituency offering to take up any problems too,” she said.
North West Norfolk MP James Wild said he had been speaking to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn every day to check they had what they needed.
“They have sufficient supplies and are supporting staff who want to wear additional PPE and testing is in place for critical staff,” he said.
Broadland MP Jerome Mayhew said his focus was on getting equipment to carers and other frontline workers such as bin collectors.
He also welcomed updated guidance from Public Health England yesterday about what PPE health workers should wear when.
Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis added: “I have been assured by the chief executive of the James Paget Hospital that currently they have a good stock of the necessary supplies, and that steps are being taken continuously to ensure that supplies get to those who need it.”
Waveney MP Peter Aldous said: “Two messages that I’ll be taking to government are the need to ensure that the supply of tests matches the need for them and the vital importance of not forgetting those doing great work on the frontline not in the NHS but working alongside them.”
South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss said: “I am working with colleagues to ensure Norfolk has the appropriate PPE; I have raised this at heart of government.
“The Queen Elizabeth hospital has assured me they are well stocked, and testing has started. My focus is also on ensuring GPs, care providers and other front line staff are all appropriately protected.”
•What about carers?
A care worker said he had to ring 30 different suppliers and borrow face masks from his partner amid shortages.
Simon Crawford, a live-in carer in Norwich, said: “My issue is it has been over a week since the government was saying PPE is coming, but even NHS doctors are not getting enough through.
“There are thousands of professional carers; I have asked about PPE for us, but no one seems to know.”
The 60-year old managed to get masks from his partner who is a beautician.
He also said he had phoned 30 suppliers to get medical grade hand wipes and gel, but none could supply him. Instead he managed to get some directly from a manufacturer.
“I have a bit of equipment but it’s not the best,” Mr Crawford added.
The government said on Thursday that PPE had been provided to over 26,000 care homes - including home care and hospices - and it was working “around the clock” to give the sector equipment.
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