Coronavirus: Cambridgeshire air ambulance in DIY store masks appeal
An air ambulance charity is asking for DIY stores and builders' merchants to donate protective masks amid a warning that the emergency service is at risk.
Magpas Air Ambulance has less than a month's worth of personal protection equipment (PPE) left due to shortages.
The Cambridgeshire-based 24-hour service covers the east of England.
"Without the correct PPE our medical teams are at much higher risk and as a result this service would not be able to continue," a spokeswoman said.
Magpas delivers hospital-level care to emergency patients from its base at RAF Wyton and is funded by donations.
It said its clinicians were normally given minimal information about patients when arriving at an emergency scene but also needed to act quickly.
The charity said it had become "near impossible" to replenish its stocks and it had felt forced to put an "urgent call out to builders' merchants and DIY stories".
Paramedic and clinical operations manager Andy Smith said protective gear was "vital to prevent staff being directly exposed to the virus".
"Coronavirus is highly contagious and a lot of our procedures are usually carried out in hospitals.
"If we go to a model like Italy, we need to make sure we have the supplies to continue our service as demand goes up."
The charity is in most urgent need of (FF)P3 respirator masks, but also required surgical gloves, clinical aprons, Cat 3 type 5/6 coverall suits, anti-fog glasses, anti-bacterial wipes and gel.
Magpas said it had spent £6,000 on this equipment in two weeks, while it cost £160,000 a month to keep its ambulance airborne.
The charity said it currently attended about five callouts a day, with six (FF)P3 masks being used daily, but was expecting to get busier as the crisis deepened.
It comes as donations have dropped in recent weeks due to fundraisers being cancelled.
Mr Smith said last weekend was the busiest this year.
"We had cardiac arrests, motorcyclists were out and we had serious traumas involving multiple bone fractures," he said.
"Normal everyday emergencies will continue regardless of coronavirus and we can only help if we have the right gear."