Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Visors and face masks are among the items of PPE being made by Hastings Makers for NHS & Keyworkers.

PPE lacking in Hastings surgeries as elsewhere

Evidence has emerged in Hastings of a lack of PPE – personal protective equipment – in GP surgeries even as controversy rages nationally over PPE supplies to frontline staff. Nick Terdre reports.

On Friday Holly Blake, lead nurse at Harold Road Surgery, posted a Facebook request in which she said she was on “another shameless PPE hunt/scrounge” (see main image).

“I’m on another shameless PPE hunt/scrounge. If any builders, merchants, painters or anyone at all have spare plastic aprons, masks or gloves, please can we pinch some?” she wrote.

“I have spent as much time trying to source equipment this week as I have helping patients. Even the ‘emergency PPE line’ have put our request for help out to tender.

“We’d all be eternally grateful.”

In response to a comment she added: “Many of us in primary care are in the same boat. We don’t have access to the NHS supply chain and our own suppliers have been bled dry. Fingers crossed we get a supply chain up and running soon.”

Support group

Holly’s cry for help drew several answers, with concerned citizens offering gloves, masks and aprons. She was also contacted by Giles Duley, who set up the Hastings Supports Our NHS Staff Facebook group when the coronavirus crisis broke out, offering gloves and (possibly) aprons.

Giles told HOT he started off sourcing useful products such as moisturisers and hand creams and received his first request to supply PPE to a number of surgeries last week. “We’ve got a couple of thousand gloves coming, and a couple of thousand aprons,” he said

Rainbow image in support of NHS in a Hastings window, as displayed on Hastings Supports Our NHS Staff FB page.

Giles is putting to work the skills acquired in his work for the Legacy of War Foundation, which he also founded, and which helps individuals and communities in conflict zones to rebuild their lives after the trauma of war. The FB group also works together with Heart – Hastings Emergency Action Response Team – to provide transport services for NHS workers.

The FB group is a point where people can connect for the purpose of helping local NHS workers, Giles said. It brings together people like Katherine Wallinger, who makes and sells face masks, the proceeds from which help to fund the purchase of further supplies, and Hastings Makers for NHS & Keyworkers, another FB group bringing together “a community of like-minded individuals who really want to help whether it be sewing, 3D printing or laser cutting. We are creating Full-Face Visors and Face Mask Strap Headbands to give to any key worker during these difficult times.”

PPE controversy

The controversy about PPE supplies to hospitals, surgeries, care workers and others whose work brings them into contact with people who may be infected with coronavirus raged over the Easter weekend.

On Friday health secretary Matt Hancock claimed that PPE supplies to hospitals were now adequate, prompting immediate denials from some hospital staff that this was not the case at their place of work.

He also caused an angry response by calling on staff to “treat PPE as the precious resource it is” and not to “overuse” it.

On Saturday the daily government briefing was fronted by home secretary Priti Patel, who said of complaints about PPE supplies, “I’m sorry if people feel that there have been failings.” Her words were dismissed as a “half-hearted apology” by shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth.

Responding to Hancock, the general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, Dame Donna Kinnair, told BBC Radio that no PPE was “more precious a resource than a healthcare worker’s life, a nurse’s life, a doctor’s life”. She also said she was hearing from nurses every day that they did not have enough protective equipment.

According to guidance from the RCN, “as a last resort” nurses should refuse to treat Covid-19 patients if they are not given adequate PPE, The Guardian reported.

Survey of surgeons

A third of surgeons and trainees surveyed across the UK said they did not believe they had an adequate supply of PPE, the Royal College of Surgeons of England reported on Saturday.

The RCS welcomed new PPE guidance issued by NHS England in early April, but vice president Sue Hill said, “The guidance is now much improved, but we have consistently said that advice about what protection to use for which medical procedures is rendered meaningless if the kit doesn’t reach the front line.”

Nineteen healthcare workers caring for infected patients are reported to have died after contracting the disease. Hancock said he was unaware of any link between the deaths and a lack of PPE but the matter would be investigated.

Care homes are very vulnerable to the spread of the disease – according to Care England some 1,000 deaths have been reported to date among care home residents. These are not included in the fatality figures announced daily by the government, which today rose to 11,329.

Three-point plan

On Friday the Department of Health and Social Care launched a “three-strand plan to ensure anyone who wants PPE can get it”:

  1. Guidance: being clear about who needs PPE, and when, and who does not
  2. Delivery: making sure that those who need it get it at the right time
  3. Future supply: taking action to secure enough PPE to see us through this crisis.

The department said that 761m PPE items had been distributed across the country since 25 February, including 158m masks, 1m gowns, 135m aprons and 360m gloves.

Speaking to BBC Radio today Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers in England, said the number of protective gowns available to NHS staff in some parts of the country was “very, very low”.

Large supplies had been ordered from abroad, including China, weeks ago, he said, but there were cases of gowns failing safety tests and some batches of equipment being mislabelled.

On Saturday the Ministry of Defence announced that Turkey has supplied the UK with 250,000 items of protective equipment, including 50,000 N-95 face masks, 100,000 surgical masks and 100,000 protective suits.



Posted 20:18 Monday, Apr 13, 2020 In: Covid-19

1 Comment

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  1. Michael Madden

    Many thanks for highlighting this very important local issue so well, Nick.

    It’s truly scandalous that the government has been so slow to act on this issue. The NHS has saved the life of Boris Johnson but although he has thanked them his government has been failing to protect the very people he has thanked. This can hardly be helping to halt the spread of the disease.

    This evening’s Channel 4 News reported that the true number of deaths from Coronavirus could be twice the government figure, if not more; because deaths in care homes from the virus are not being reported. Neither, by other accounts, are the number of deaths at home from the virus being factored in.

    It is literally mindblowing to live under a government that is, in effect, lying to its people and getting away with it on this issue. Its’ daily briefng on fatality numbers has been knowingly false. And it is also scary to witness their slow pace on the provision of PPE to NHS and other care workers.

    Many people I know have relatives in care homes, including myself and my wife, and we know that the PPE provision is far lower for care-home workers.

    Thanks also for the info about local surgeries and the insufficient levels of PPE around here. We worry about our own GP in the Harold Road surgery. What must it be like for a lovely person like her – a youngish woman with children – to have to face the possibility that she might carry the virus home to them and her husband, as she is asked to risk her own life so that she can help to put bread and butter on the table for them?

    Even top surgeons have been complaining, saying that only half the required number of PPE items are getting to them. Of course, this could not only endanger them but help to spread the infection further.

    Comment by Michael Madden — Monday, Apr 13, 2020 @ 21:48

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