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Shortage of surgical gowns in England will lead to delays for Northern Ireland health staff

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The delivery of 250,000 surgical gowns to Northern Ireland is facing delay as England has been hit by severe shortages of the PPE. (Justin Kernoghan/PA)

The delivery of 250,000 surgical gowns to Northern Ireland is facing delay as England has been hit by severe shortages of the PPE. (Justin Kernoghan/PA)

PA

The delivery of 250,000 surgical gowns to Northern Ireland is facing delay as England has been hit by severe shortages of the PPE. (Justin Kernoghan/PA)

The delivery of 250,000 surgical gowns to Northern Ireland is facing delay as England has been hit by severe shortages of PPE.

It emerged on Wednesday that the health service here has sent 250,000 gowns to England over the past two weeks.

Health Minister Robin Swann told MLAs the health service here "will be immediately reimbursed" once stocks arrive in England.

However, it emerged last night that the shortage of gowns in England has become so serious that hospital staff are being advised to reuse surgical gowns.

Public Health England, the organisation that issues guidance on the use of PPE, last night provided updated guidance to NHS staff on what they should do in the event of acute PPE shortages.

The document states: "Some of the PPE in the NHS Covid-19 Ensemble is designated by the manufacturers as being single use. However, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recognises that some compromise is needed to optimise the supply of PPE in times of extreme shortages.

"These are exceptional circumstances and do not reflect HSE's standard approach. The reuse of PPE should be implemented until confirmation of adequate re-supply is in place."

It goes on to explain how best to reuse gowns and masks as safely as possible.

There are concerns that staff in Northern Ireland may be asked to follow the advice if similar shortages of gowns happen here in the coming days and weeks.

Former health minister Jim Wells said the shortage of gowns in England is a concerning development that has the potential to impact on the supply in Northern Ireland.

"I heard a statistic today that the UK has used a years' supply of gowns in just under two weeks, therefore what worries me slightly is that something is going to give and we're going to be short and staff will be forced to reuse gowns with all the dangers that go with that," said the DUP MLA.

"This comes despite a commitment from Matt Hancock and Robin Swann that issues about PPE had been sorted and it turns out that they haven't.

"It does undermine the assurances that have been given.

"It certainly seems that the prospect of us getting our 250,000 gowns back anytime soon is very slim. It really is a nightmare situation."

Meanwhile, the Department of Health has set up a new email contact for health and social care staff to raise PPE concerns.

The address - Covid19PPE.queries@health-ni.gov.uk - will be checked every day and the anonymity of staff using it will be protected.

Why PPE is in short supply, page 13

Belfast Telegraph