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Warning quarter of Northern Ireland psychiatrists have no access to correct PPE

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Professor Wendy Burn said thousands of UK psychiatrists and frontline staff are still treating people with mental illness face-to-face, either in the community or in inpatient settings, and are at increased risk of contracting or passing on the virus (stock picture)

Professor Wendy Burn said thousands of UK psychiatrists and frontline staff are still treating people with mental illness face-to-face, either in the community or in inpatient settings, and are at increased risk of contracting or passing on the virus (stock picture)

Professor Wendy Burn said thousands of UK psychiatrists and frontline staff are still treating people with mental illness face-to-face, either in the community or in inpatient settings, and are at increased risk of contracting or passing on the virus (stock picture)

More than a quarter of psychiatrists in Northern Ireland do not have access to the correct personal protection equipment (PPE), it has been warned.

It has led to concerns the crisis sweeping care homes could be replicated in mental health care unless access to testing kits and PPE dramatically improves.

The president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists said she is deeply worried by the situation.

Professor Wendy Burn said thousands of UK psychiatrists and frontline staff are still treating people with mental illness face-to-face, either in the community or in inpatient settings, and are at increased risk of contracting or passing on the virus.

The college's warning comes as their national survey found only half of psychiatrists confirm they can access testing kits for themselves (51%) or their patients (54%).

Less than one in three (30%) confirmed they can obtain tests for family members.

Professor Burn said: "The findings of our survey are deeply worrying, with many psychiatrists unable to test their patients or themselves in line with official advice.

"Without access to testing kits and the right protective equipment I fear we could see a care home-style crisis sweeping through mental health units, with many patients and staff contracting the virus."

Despite official guidance that they should have access to protective equipment, the survey also shows nearly one in four (23%) of psychiatrists in the UK do not have access to correct PPE.

In Northern Ireland the figure is 26%.

Dr Adrian James, registrar of the College, added: "A patient with, or at risk of, contracting Covid-19 is the same in all healthcare settings and they should be treated the same.

"Not all our buildings are set up to withstand infection control and we're hearing some real fears from our frontline psychiatrists who are putting themselves and their families in danger every time they go to work.

"Government must urgently address the need in mental health services to ensure staff and patients have the protection they need from the virus."

Some 1,685 members responded to the survey, which ran from April 15 to 17.

Questions included access to PPE, testing kits and duties undertaken at work.

Belfast Telegraph