NHS staff battling coronavirus are on the brink of running out of crucial protective gowns amid warnings supplies across the country are now 'hand to mouth'.
Senior health officials have revealed some hospitals have even been forced to try to source much-needed medical equipment from the outbreak country of China to boost dwindling stocks.
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Leaked memos which emerged Saturday warned of a “national shortage” of long-sleeved gowns – desperately needed to treat those suffering with the highly-infectious virus.
Documents seen by The Sunday Telegraph showed medics at Surrey's Kingston Hospital had at one stage warned supplies could run out this weekend.
Meanwhile the chief executive of Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust has warned of a “very limited supply” of the crucial gowns.
Last night, Kingston hospital said it had managed to "secure more gowns", but NHS Providers – which represents all trusts -warned the supply across the country was now "hand to mouth".
One email sent by Martin Barkley, the Mid Yorkshire chief exec, read: “I fully recognise the huge anxiety staff feel about this issue.
"Every day you are coming into work, leaving your families, putting yourselves in what must feel like a vulnerable and scary position in order to do the right thing by our patients.
"I want to assure you the trust is doing everything it can to secure further stocks.”
Meanwhile it's been reported hospitals are running out of three vital drugs needed to help treat the sickest patients.
One consultant – with five days’ supply of a key sedative propofol – told the Sunday Mirror: “It’s extremely worrying.”
Stocks of the painkiller fentanyl and circulation-boosting drug noradrenaline – both key for patients on ventilators – are also running low.
The lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) is “a disaster in waiting for staff health”, alarmed NHS bosses have already said.
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NHS leaders in London emailed about the shortfall on Thursday evening are said to be “alarmed” at the shortage of gowns.
And a letter to intensive care nurses at the Royal Free Hospital in London warns them “we will no doubt run out of items over the weekend”.
The Royal Free's intensive care unit (ICU) is one of the largest in the UK and is at the forefront of the NHS fight against coronavirus.
At least 20 NHS staff have now died after contracting the deadly bug, with Downing Street under pressure to ramp up PPE supplies for hospital and care home workers.
The email to NHS bosses in London read: “There are no immediate stocks of gowns due in the national supply chain over the next few days and we are unsighted on when further deliveries will be made.”
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A hospital chief executive said: “There simply aren’t enough gowns in hospitals going into Easter weekend, despite there being thousands of patients in intensive care units and other areas of hospitals with Covid-19, and we are going to have to cover the guts of a week with no new gowns.
"This is a disaster in waiting for staff health."
The Government has been under constant pressure to ensure that PPE is dished out to frontline NHS workers
A senior doctor said that medics felt like "cannon fodder" and "lambs to the slaughter" as they deal with covid-19 patients in wards.
While doctors and nurses have been snapped wearing rubbish bags around the bodies and mouths as makeshift PPE.
Other medics are said to have bought scrubs on Amazon or had friends knit them protective kit.
This week, it was revealed nurses are still being forced to share personal protective equipment, reuse masks or buy their own, MPs have been told.
The chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Dame Donna Kinnair wrote to MPs demanding nurses in all healthcare settings are protected.
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