POLITICS
30/03/2020 17:52 BST | Updated 30/03/2020 18:15 BST

Protective Gowns That Shield NHS Staff From Coronavirus 'Not Part Of National Stockpile'

Doctors and nurses need the medical clothing to protect from the contagion.

Justin Setterfield via Getty Images
 A man enters the NHS Nightingale hospital with PPE equipment at the Excel on March 30, 2020 in London, England.

Updated: See the latest stories on the coronavirus outbreak.

Fears are mounting NHS workers will run out of protective gowns amid reports the vital piece of clothing was in the national stockpile set aside for a pandemic. 

Doctors and nurses treating Covid-19 patients on the frontline need the full-body medical gowns to shield their bodies from particles that leave them vulnerable to the contagion.

But a report in the Health Service Journal has emerged suggesting hospital chiefs were unable to order the gowns via NHS Supply Chain - the body which manages the supply of healthcare products to the NHS - last week, with procurement bosses sounding the alarm online. 

The report quotes a tweet from Health Care Supply Association chief officer Alan Hoskins, since deleted, which said: “What a day, no gowns NHS Supply Chain. Rang every number escalated to NHS England, just got message back — no stock, can’t help, can send you a PPE pack. Losing the will to live, god help us all.”

The Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association, a trade union for hospital doctors, said in a tweet on Monday that NHS Supply Chain had confirmed the gowns are not included in the national stockpile in preparation for pandemics. 

It follows concerns that some NHS trusts in London, where the disease outbreak is at its worst, are set to run out.

The government and NHS Supply Chain have been under increasing pressure to ensure frontline NHS workers have enough personal protective equipment (PPE). 

An NHS Supply Chain spokeswoman said gowns will be delivered to frontline staff at hospital trusts in the coming days. 

She added: “We’re working closely with our suppliers to manage stock levels of the identified key product lines outlined in Public Health England’s guidance.

“We have stock on order from the UK and European countries in addition to suppliers based in the Far East to continue to secure a pipeline and replenish our stocks to help ensure these products are delivered to the frontline.”

The Department for Health and Social Care confirmed on Monday that a further 180 people diagnosed with the virus had lost their lives, taking the UK death toll to 1,408. 

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow health secretary, told HuffPost UK: “There have been widespread concerns about the speed of supply and adequacy of PPE and this frustration will be shared by many on the frontline.

“It’s vital we keep NHS staff safe and ministers must urgently reassure us that no stone is being left unturned in getting everything to frontline staff as rapidly as possible.”