'I'm terrified': Doctor at UK hospital says they're being told not to wear protective clothing

A doctor says he's "terrified of getting other patients sick because of the lack of protective gear. (Getty Images)

A doctor at a major UK hospital who is treating coronavirus patients says he is "terrified" and can't bear the thought of giving his patients a disease that could cause them to die.

In a message read out on Monday by Jeremy Hunt at the health and social care select committee, a doctor said that they were told “not to bother” with protective equipment, contradicting World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.

The committee, which hears evidence from the main government players on Home Office preparedness for the coronavirus (Covid-19), was speaking to the government's chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.

Former Conservative health minister Jeremy Hunt, who's chairing the committee, read out the message from the unidentified doctor.

"I just wanted to read you a comment from one doctor who is currently treating patients with coronavirus in a major UK hospital and he says ‘one week ago I was wearing full protective equipment, now we've been told not to bother with any of that, contradicting WHO guidance’.

"I'm terrified. I can't bear the thought of infecting other patients with a disease that could kill them."

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Boris Johnson holds a press conference on the ongoing Covid-19 situation with chief medical officer Chris Whitty, left, and chief scientific officer Sir Patrick Vallance, right. (Getty Images)
Jeremy Hunt chairs the health and social care select committee. (Getty Images)
Sir Patrick Vallance is the government's chief scientific officer (PA)

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"Obviously staff can't look after patients if they themselves are ill and a lot of them are worried about the lack of protective clothing, protective equipment," Hunt said.

He then asked in Sir Valance's capacity as a former NHS consultant, and not just chief scientific advisor, what his reaction to this message given the the government want to bring down mortality rates.

Sir Vallance replied saying that supplies are down to the NHS.

A sign directs patients towards an NHS 111 coronavirus pod at London University Hospital. (Getty Images)


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"I think that is a question that really needs to go to the NHS and think about how they organise a response to this.

"I think we need to get the proportionality right of where we need protective clothing and where we don't because one of the things is that if we go to the wrong place in protective equipment we could hamper all sorts of other healthcare."

In early March, the WHO called on industry and governments to increase manufacturing by 40% to meet rising global demand.

The WHO warned against the mounting disruption to supply of personal protective equipment caused by rising demand because of panic buying and misuse.

Shortages are leaving doctors, nurses and other frontline workers dangerously ill-equipped to care for Covid-19 patients, due to limited access to supplies such as gloves, medical masks, respirators, goggles, face shields, gowns, and aprons.

A man in protective clothing cleans the County Oak Medical Centre GP practice in Brighton (PA Images)

“Without secure supply chains, the risk to healthcare workers around the world is real. Industry and governments must act quickly to boost supply, ease export restrictions and put measures in place to stop speculation and hoarding,” said WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“We can’t stop Covid-19 without protecting health workers first.”