Less than half of acute and emergency staff satisfied with protective equipment

Less than half of acute and emergency staff are satisfied with the personal protective equipment (PPE) supplied to them to as part of the NHS COVID-19 response.

A snapshot survey conducted by the Society for Acute Medicine (SAM) found only 42 per cent said they felt they had the right – or enough – PPE to manage suspected and confirmed patients.

SAM president Dr Susan Crossland said staff across the country had become anxious as a result of “perceived mixed messages” and the subsequent logistics failure.

“The anxiety surrounding PPE is mostly around the perceived mixed messages that came out at the start when on day one we were using visors, FFP3 filter masks, booties, gowns,” said Dr Crossland.

“This was then downgraded to the current recommendations which replace FFP3 filter masks with surgical masks and there was a lot of angst about whether this was safe despite Public Health England and World Health Organisation advice that it is.

“This was then compounded by the logistics failure, where equipment was plentiful but not in the places where it was necessarily needed, and that only worked to heighten fears among frontline staff at a time of significantly pressure.”

Dr Crossland pointed out the survey was carried out before the revamped delivery of PPE to hospital trusts last week and a repeat survey in three weeks may highlight improved confidence in supplies.

The survey also discovered more than half of clinicians who looked after COVID-19 on acute medical units patients also looked after patients without the virus in the same shift.

The results showed 52 per cent moved between patients which increases the risk of cross infection and Dr Crossland warned this was likely to be caused by staffing problems.

“This was a particularly worrying finding as by not separating the work streams of COVID and non-COVID patients you increase the risk of cross contamination and cross infection,” she said.

“This is probably a reflection of smaller units with less staff to split the rotas fully so, in addition to the risk to patients, fatigue will be a major worry and not just for these staff but for the whole frontline working in these unprecedented circumstances.”

The survey covered staff working in 44 trusts of various sizes and also showed only a quarter began their preparations for COVID more than two weeks ago and the free comment section was dominated by concern over PPE and testing turnaround times.