One in three UK surgeons lacks enough protective kit, survey finds | World news

Surgeons treating Covid-19 patients have a “terrifying” lack of personal protective equipment that is risking lives, the profession’s leaders warn today.

Almost a third (32.5%) of UK surgeons say they do not have access to enough masks, gowns and other clothing to keep them safe, a new survey reveals.

The widespread lack of PPE for frontline staff is “a disgrace”, according to the Royal College of Surgeons of England, which collated the views of 1,978 surgeons and surgical trainees.

“There are often young doctors and nurses, many with kids at home, putting themselves in challenging situations without proper PPE. It’s not acceptable, morally or ethically, that people should put their lives at risk to do their job unless they have adequate PPE,” Sue Hill, the college’s vice-president, told the Observer.

The findings come amid a growing row after health secretary Matt Hancock sparked controversy by urging NHS staff not to use any more PPE than is clinically justified. The Royal College of Nursing and British Medical Association criticised his remarks.

Hill was responding to the college’s survey, which also found:

  • Up to 70% of surgeons in some parts of the UK have seen shortages of PPE in their hospital in the last month;

  • Across the UK 41% of surgeons believe there is enough PPE where they work, but 39% of those in Scotland and 36% in the north-west of England report a shortage;

  • Half of surgeons doubt they will be able to get a test to tell them if they have Covid-19.

Hill, a vascular surgeon in Wales, said Hancock’s pledge that millions of pieces of PPE are on order mean little to NHS staff, given the heavy usage Covid-19 involves. “When I’m operating I put on a hat, visor, proper ventilating mask, two pairs of gloves and a full-length surgical gown – six pieces of PPE. So does my assistant, two scrub nurses and two anaesthetists. That’s 36 pieces of PPE for just one operation.”

One surgeon said the lack of masks was scandalous. They and their colleagues were “spoken to” by hospital managers for wearing masks and gloves when visiting patients on wards, even though one coronavirus carrier infected at least six members of staff. Another said: “We’ve been sent to war but with no protective armour.”

Overall, 72% of surgeons believe the UK will not be able to end the three week-long lockdown until the general public can get tested for Covid-19.

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