Coronavirus: Southend Hospital staff could 'limit work' over protective equipment

By Simon Dedman
BBC News

Southend Hospital
Image caption,
Southend Hospital is closed to visitors, apart from in exceptional circumstances

Staff at a hospital have warned they could "limit services" to patients with coronavirus "to a bare minimum", over fears for their own safety.

In a letter to management, medics at Southend Hospital in Essex say they are not receiving the correct personal protective equipment (PPE).

BBC Essex has been told that a quarter of Southend's medical staff are off sick with coronavirus symptoms.

Hospital bosses say they are "absolutely committed" to staff safety.

In the letter, clinicians at Southend A&E note:

  • "PPE is being rationed", that "there is limited stock" and what is available is being "locked away from staff and not accessible"
  • Staff are said to be "petrified" working in the hospital and claim that most have not been tested for the virus
  • Staff also say that many "are reluctant to work in this [high-risk] area" because of safety issues "but continue to do so as we have the welfare of our patients foremost"

They warn chief executive Clare Panniker that if the standard and availability of PPE is not improved by "close of play" on 1 April, they will introduce "restricted services" in high-risk areas of the hospital.

Image caption,
Staff are said to be "petrified" at the lack of protective equipment during the coronavirus crisis

In a statement, Southend Hospital said: "We are fully complying with the Public Health England guidance on the use of personal protective equipment which has been developed by expert clinicians and is being followed by the whole of the NHS.

"There are no issues whatsoever with the cost of equipment. It has been made clear that cost is not an issue in keeping our staff protected. What is important is that the supplies of PPE equipment across the NHS are used responsibly so there is enough to go round."

A source at Basildon Hospital - which along with Chelmsford's Broomfield Hospital shares Southend's senior management team and CEO - says that there is a good supply of PPE there, but that they have heard of supply issues at Southend Hospital.

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