Coronavirus: Nurses holding their breath during high-risk COVID-19 procedures, doctor claims

Written by on 05/04/2020

Nurses are being forced to hold their breath when carrying out high-risk COVID-19 procedures because they are unsure whether their masks will protect them, a top UK medic has claimed.

Dr Rinesh Parmar, chairman of the Doctors’ Association UK, said it had been two weeks since Health Secretary Matt Hancock pledged to ensure front line NHS workers had the right protection during the coronavirus outbreak, but warned “sadly that is still not happening”.

He told the Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme: “We still have issues with personal protective equipment, with testing of front line staff… so doctors have been left with no choice but to take matters into their own hands.

“Doctors have said that they are having to reuse masks that should be single-use only… and nurses are having to do some high-risk procedures trying to hold their breath, because they are unsure and unaware whether the mask they have been provided is going to offer them adequate protection.

“So this is really harrowing to hear some of these stories across the NHS.

“We have seen doctors resorting to accepting donations from local schools, for example, of science goggles that children would normally be using in their labs.

“We have seen tremendous amounts of effort from local communities to try and get personal protective equipment to doctors in the absence of things coming from the Department of Health.”

He said the issues had been brought to light through a new app – – which allows both hospital doctors and GPs to anonymously share their local PPE status in real time.

Dr Parmar said DAUK had joined forces with Messly to create the app and a survey of “hundreds” of medics at more than 150 hospitals since Thursday had revealed 43% of doctors have no eye protection.

He also called for more to be done on COVID-19 testing, saying doctors were going to centres to be checked, only to be turned away because their names were not on the list.

Dr Parmar said that alongside the safety of patients, the safety of the NHS workforce “is our paramount concern”.

“Given the severe lack of PPE that is getting through, we’re all very concerned about potentially losing more colleagues,” he said.

“It’s sad to hear that we’ve already lost doctors and nurses in the line of duty, doing their very, very best for patients, and none of us wants to hear further stories of front line staff losing their lives.”

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On testing, Dr Parmar said it would be “welcome news” to see in practice that it is being increased, adding: “We’ve heard from doctors who have been sent to a testing centre only to be turned away and told that their name doesn’t appear on a list.

“These are individuals who are isolating, they may not currently have symptoms but they may have family members, for example, in the household who may have symptoms.

“So hearing that almost 15% of doctors – three times the number that the health secretary quotes, are currently off work, is a significant amount of the NHS workforce, and that is a worry going forward.”

He added: “We have gone into this pandemic in a position of relative weakness. However, every single member of the NHS is on hand to give 110%, to do everything they can to make sure we pull through this.”

A spokesperson for the NHS said: “It is vital that NHS staff get the protective equipment they need to stay safe and the most recent data shows that almost 27 million pieces of protective kit the government have procured for us were delivered to the front line in just one day and 51 million in the 48 hours before.

“Where there are any issues with supply, staff can raise them through a dedicated hotline, which is open 24/7.”

(c) Sky News 2020: Coronavirus: Nurses holding their breath during high-risk COVID-19 procedures, doctor claims

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