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Half of UK doctors have to source own PPE

In a major survey of frontline NHS doctors since the Coronavirus crisis began, over 16,000 UK doctors1 have responded to a BMA survey, answering questions on PPE provision, their well-being and drug shortages.

The survey shows that overall, nearly half the doctors say they had to source their own Personal Protective Equipment, PPE,  for personal or departmental use, or they have relied upon donations.



Breaking it down by profession, the majority, at 55%, are GPs with 38% being hospital doctors.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA Council Chair said:

“In what is the biggest survey of frontline NHS staff during this crisis, thousands of doctors have told the BMA that they have had to personally buy PPE for themselves or their department or rely on donations. 55% of GPs told us they sourced their own PPE or relied on donations and 38% of hospital doctors."

While it shows how resourceful doctors have been and how much support there has been from the general public in providing kit, it is a damning indictment of the Government’s abject failure to make sure healthcare workers across the country are being supplied with the life-saving kit.

Repeated promises from the government just do not seem to have materialised, although there has been some improvement.

If almost half of all doctors report that they had to resort to purchasing PPE themselves or rely on donations, then there is still a lot for the Government to do to protect its frontline.

Doctors are still reporting shortages in gowns, with one in three not having enough gowns in settings where they are most at risk with the most poorly of Covid patients.

The survey also revealed that one in four doctors either failed or had not been fit tested for an FFP3 mask at all – a mask of this type is used when performing highly infectious medical procedures and which if not properly fitted means a healthcare worker remains at significant risk of becoming infected.

As one doctor commented,

“the PPE situation is an outrage for all staff. Lives lost for want of plastic visors, masks, and eye protection.”
 Another told the survey:
“Adequate PPE supply in terms of gowns and visors would reduce stress within the team as almost all of our patients are Covid positive”

According to Dr Nagpaul,  thirty per cent of doctors told the BMA they wouldn’t bother to speak up about an issue such as PPE or drug shortages4, as they didn’t think anything would be done about it. 


But perhaps the most telling and troubling of all the responses is the one in which 65% of doctors told the BMA they felt only partly, or not at all protected from coronavirus, in their workplace. And one in four reports worsening mental distress during the pandemic including depression, anxiety and burnout6.

Dr Nagpaul said:

“The Government has five tests it has said must be met to ease lockdown – the first of which is ‘making sure the NHS can cope’. Six weeks into this crisis, how can the Government be confident that this condition is anywhere near being met, or that the pandemic is under control, when the very people on the frontline are not being made safe?”

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