Medics have been “gagged” over speaking out about concerns around a lack of protective equipment for frontline health workers, it has been claimed.
Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK) said that NHS staff “should not be gagged” after reports were published of staff being ordered not to speak to the media over concerns about personal protective equipment (PPE).
Global shortages of the equipment medics and carers need to protect themselves against Covid-19 have led to shortfalls in the UK.
Doctors have highlighted serious shortages on the NHS frontline by speaking to the media.
Some have described how kit is being “hidden” by desperate staff, while others have described how they feel as though it is “inevitable” they will get sick.
The Independent has now reported that many doctors have been warned not to speak to the media during the outbreak.
Dr Rinesh Parmar, chairman of the DAUK – a campaign group for medics – said it had received a number of concerns from doctors.
“We are seeing draconian measures used to gag doctors and nurses on the frontline,” he said.
“The NHS will only benefit if we learn from each other’s experience. If we are unable to share our learning then patients will be put at risk.
“We must protect the frontline. NHS staff should not be gagged.”
But it appears that no national order has been handed down to prevent medics speaking out over concerns.
An NHS spokeswoman said: “Once a major incidents occurs it is vital that the public receive fast, authoritative, open, clear and consistent information from their NHS, which is why in line with long-standing protocols, official communications are therefore always co-ordinated nationally.
“But staff continue to speak in a personal, trade union or professional body capacity, and it is self-evident from print and broadcast media coverage throughout this incident that staff are able and do in fact speak freely.”
The reports come after the British Medical Association (BMA) called for clarity from ministers about what risks they should not have to take if they do not have adequate PPE.
The union warned that many hospitals and GP practices continue to face “life-threatening shortages” of PPE.
BMA consultants’ committee chairman Dr Rob Harwood said: “Doctors are placing themselves at significant risk by treating patients on the frontline and there are concerns that sometimes this is without adequate PPE.”
On Sunday, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said the Government “cannot and should not ask people to be on the frontline without the right protective equipment”.
Downing Street said that millions of items of personal protective equipment were delivered to NHS trusts on Monday, with the army helping to ensure supplies reach frontline workers.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told a Westminster briefing on Tuesday: “Yesterday’s deliveries of PPE included more than 2.5 million aprons, 870,000 eye protectors, 218,000 respiratory masks – they are FFP2 and FFP3 masks – one million surgical masks and 11 million gloves.
“The full weight of Government is behind the PPE efforts, with PPE being sent out 24 hours a day and the army helping with deliveries.
“There have been occasional issues with deliveries being received out of hours by NHS trusts but this is what we are working on to address and resolve.”
Meanwhile manufacturers have rallied to help frontline NHS workers by making new equipment.
People with 3D printers have also joined the movement too.
3Dcrowd, a community of 3D printer owners, have come together to make protective face masks.
As of Tuesday, they have received more than 365 separate orders from hospitals and social care facilities across the country, which equates to demand of more than 110,000 masks.
Gen Ashley is helping co-ordinate the effort, and told the PA news agency: “There is a huge demand for these shields, we get contacted by a lot of people from hospitals and care homes, even pharmacists, paramedics.
“There is a huge demand for it and there’s a shortage. It’s important to protect the people who are protecting us.”
The group are hoping to meet a new fundraising target of £40,000 which will allow them to produce 20,000 masks.