400k protective gowns to arrive in UK from Turkey for coronavirus medics – but that's only enough to last NHS three days
THE government has announced 400,000 full-length gowns will arrive from Turkey tomorrow – but that is only enough to last the NHS for THREE DAYS.
It comes as NHS staff were told to treat coronavirus patients in flimsy plastic aprons when gowns run out – which could lead to more hero healthcare workers contracting the virus.
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The guidance is a U-turn on existing advice from Public Health England which told NHS staff that full-length waterproof surgical gowns should be worn for all high-risk hospital procedures.
Doctors and nurses have also been instructed to reuse gear that is normally single-use only or even wear white lab coats and wash them afterwards.
At least 60 NHS and healthcare workers have so far died from coronavirus, with many families blaming lack of personal protective equipment.
In tonight's Downing Street briefing, Housing Minister Robert Jenrick said a "very large consignment" of PPE – including 400,000 gowns – will arrive from Turkey tomorrow.
However that is only enough to last the NHS for three days.
When pressed on the issue, Mr Jenrick added: "Supply in some areas, particularly gowns and certain types of masks and aprons, is in short supply at the moment, and that must be an extremely anxious time for people working on the front line, but they should be assured that we are doing everything we can to correct this issue, and to get them the equipment that they need."
Yesterday we reported how hospitals that still have full-length gowns will have to lend them to others, while anyone without will have to make do with aprons instead.
A "sustainable" level will not be reached until mid-June, it emerged today.
A source with knowledge of the plan told the Guardian: "The new guidance will say 'this is what you do if you don't have any gowns'. Wear an apron instead – that will be the new policy for the foreseeable future, though the medical organisations will go mad about that."
In a leaked email, seen by the Independent, a military liaison officer wrote to hospitals and other NHS trusts saying: "I can confirm that regions were informed that there will be no deliveries of gowns until 27 Apr and a sustainable level will not be reached until after mid-June."
He added: "My assessment is that most trusts will be out of stock after the weekend on current consumption."
It comes as the head of an NHS Trust in Southern England revealed how he had asked for help from a British fashion company, fearing his staff will soon run out of hospital gowns.
The man, who wished to remain anonymous, asked the BBC for a phone number for Burberry, which has recently retooled its trench coat factory in Castleford, West Yorkshire, to begin PPE production.
Shadow health minister Justin Madders said the amount of key workers still without protective equipment was a "scandal".
"Workers have been sounding the alarm for weeks now and the Government has had months to put things in place," he said.
"It is outrageous that supplies keep running so low, protecting those staff who are risking their lives every time they go to work should be an absolute priority.
"Ministers need to make good on their promises, sort out the supply issues and work to make sure no staff member feels unsafe because of a lack of PPE. It is no good making grand promises if they later turn out to be undeliverable."