UK health unions call for wartime style PPE manufacturing effort

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Manufacturing capacity currently furloughed or underutilised should be repurposed to produce the PPE kit desperately needed by NHS, social care providers and others, say doctors.

British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing, Unite and UNISON made the joint call in response to shortages in protective equipment such as face masks and gloves, which could be putting thousands of workers at risk from contracting coronavirus.

The statement says that skilled workers in manufacturing want to “play their part” and that existing manufacturers simply can’t cope with demand.

BMA deputy chair, Dr David Wrigley said: “Doctors, healthcare workers and carers are risking their lives day-to-day in the battle against COVID-19. They must be protected with proper PPE so they can stay healthy to care for patients safely and stop the spread of this deadly virus.”

He said that the government must lead a national manufacturing drive “the likes of which has not been seen in peacetime.”

Manufacturing capacity currently furloughed or underutilised should be repurposed to produce the PPE kit desperately needed by NHS

“We are in the grip of the biggest public health crisis of our lifetimes and will be dealing with it for a long time to come. Let us now unleash the brilliance of the UK’s manufacturing workers to alleviate the critical shortage of PPE and protect doctors so that they can help you.”

In past weeks there have been reports on several news sites and on social media of doctors having to fashion their own personal protective equipment (PPE). One doctor in the midlands said colleagues have been using clinical waste bags, plastic aprons and skiing goggles

It comes as new guidelines on PPE were issued yesterday for care workers and for hospital workers treating patients with Covid-19.

The government is now advising that re-using eye and face protection is acceptable. Normally, disposable, single-use, eye and face protection is recommended for single or single session use, but doctors are advised to re-use items if they are decontaminated between use.

There are also new requirements to carry out risk assessments to inform PPE use.

Medical professionals have always needed PPE, but the coronavirus has called for unprecedented supply needs. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, an EU agency, has estimated that for each coronavirus case a health service would need 14 to 24 separate sets of personal protective equipment every day. 

Dame Donna Kinnair, R College of Nursing chief executive said: “Weeks into this crisis, it is completely unacceptable that nursing staff, wherever they work, have not been provided with personal protective equipment.

"I am hearing from nurses who are treating patients in Covid-19 wards without any protection at all. This cannot continue. They are putting themselves, their families, and their patients at risk."

Burberry has recently announced it will transform its trenchcoat factory to make surgical gowns. To offer your services as a business, you can write to the government here and you will be contacted if your support is needed. 

COVID-19 personal protective equipment (PPE) guidance here

BMA joint statement here


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