More than one in three nurses and healthcare assistants are caring for Covid-19 patients without adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), a poll suggests.
The UK-wide survey of more than 5,000 nursing staff for the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) found 34% were working without adequate PPE, including gowns that have been promised by the Government.
Almost a quarter (23%) of respondents who need gowns said there were not enough for them to use, with a further 34% concerned about the supply for their next shift.
Some 58% of nursing staff across both the NHS and social care said they had raised concerns about PPE, with 27% saying these concerns had not been addressed.
We continue to hear that our members are still not adequately protectedDame Donna Kinnair, RCN chief executive
For those who did not raise concerns, many said they thought it would make no difference to the action taken in their workplace while others were worried it would have a negative impact on their career.
Almost one in five (19%) staff working in high-risk environments said there were not enough respirator masks for them to use, with a further 35% concerned about the supply for their next shift.
More than four in 10 (44%) are being forced to re-use single use equipment and 32% had not been adequately fit-tested for respirator masks.
Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive of the RCN, said: “We continue to hear that our members are still not adequately protected.
“This is particularly concerning especially if the country faces the threat of a second wave.
“We have repeatedly raised the issue with UK governments and have heard assurances that PPE is being delivered.
“But this survey – and the direct contact I have with members – shows that is not the experience on the ground in hospitals as well as in care homes.”
The RCN’s findings come as thousands of doctors told the British Medical Association (BMA) that they have little or no confidence in the NHS’s ability to properly care for patients.
In a survey of more than 8,000 doctors in England, more than half (54.9%) said the pandemic meant the care given to non-Covid patients was either slightly or significantly worsening.
More than two thirds (68.9%) of doctors said they were not very confident or not at all confident in their ability to manage patient demand in community settings as normal NHS services resume.
Just over half (52%) of doctors surveyed said they were not very confident or not at all confident in their ability to manage patient demand in their own department or practice once normal service resumes.
The BMA said that plans to resume normal NHS services need to give detail on how PPE will be provided for all healthcare workers and how the risk of infection will be mitigated.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the BMA Council chairman, said: “Last month the Government insisted that before lockdown was eased, the NHS must be able to cope.
“These results clearly show that doctors on the front line feel this is not the case.
“This is heart-breaking to doctors, indeed all healthcare workers, who want nothing more than to provide the best care for their patients and to avoid delays in essential scans for disease such as cancer.”