• Doctors threaten to limit services to “bare minimum” without correct equipment
  • Group at Southend Hospital lays out concerns in letter to trust chief Clare Panniker
  • Comes amid criticism over PPE shortages nationwide

Emergency department doctors at an acute trust have threatened to reduce their services “to the bare minimum” unless they are provided with the correct personal protective equipment.

Senior medics at Southend Hospital, which is now part of Mid and South Essex Foundation Trust, have told the board they have “no other option” but to demand correct PPE amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

In a joint letter to the trust’s chief executive Clare Panniker, seen by HSJ, they said: “As a group of senior ED clinicians, we feel that the risks to us on a personal level have no mitigation and we feel that we have no option other than to demand the correct PPE — FFP3 masks, long-sleeved gowns [and] shoe covers.

“Many of us are reluctant to work in this area for the reasons stated above but continue to do so as we have the welfare of our patients foremost. As a group, we will consider limiting our services in this area to a bare minimum in the hot zone without the correct equipment.

“At the start of the outbreak we were advised to wear respirator hood, long sleeved gowns, double gloves and shoe covers. Now it seems that this advice has been diluted down to a bare minimum, which in no way provides any form of protection.

“On a daily basis, PPE is being rationed, we are told we have used two weeks supply in three days and that there is limited stock. There is inadequate supply of FFP3 masks and fit testing is not carried out at the start of each shift.”

Mid and South Essex FT said in a statement: “We are absolutely committed to keeping our staff safe. We are fully complying with the Public Health England guidance on the use of PPE which has been developed by expert clinicians and is being followed by the whole of the NHS.

“Like all other hospitals, we have staff working around the clock to ensure that we have sufficient supplies of PPE available for our staff.”

It comes as the government, which has been criticised over the PPE situation, has ordered an urgent national audit of PPE, as well as body bags, swabs and infection control products. A new supply channel has also been announced, following weeks of major shortages at trusts, GPs and community partnerships across the country.

On Tuesday, HSJ revealed retail logistics firm Clipper would be overseeing the new covid-19 related supply channel.