Coronavirus: Unions seeing hospital PPE 'horror stories'

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Personal protective equipmentImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Personal protective equipment (PPE) includes masks, gloves and other clothing to stop the spread of coronavirus

Unions are seeing "horror stories" over a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for NHS staff dealing with coronavirus, a leading official says.

Shavanah Taj of the Wales TUC claimed a ward sister at a hospital near Cardiff sought goggles online because there were only four for 40 nurses.

The body, in a joint letter with BMA Cymru, has called for greater clarity on the supply of kit.

Cardiff and Vale health board's medical director said hospitals had enough PPE.

But Ms Taj, general secretary of the Wales TUC, called for "independent inspectorates" to "go out and check that supplies are getting to where they need".

She said: "We're getting some real horror stories now, in terms of front-line NHS workers and social care workers fighting coronavirus."

Ms Taj told BBC Radio Wales Breakfast with Oliver Hides a doctor contacted Wales TUC about a "Covid positive ward" being set up at Llandough hospital.

He said the sister of the ward was "currently on Amazon, trying to see if she can get some gardening goggles".

The situation at the hospital was "somewhat improved" since, she said.

Ms Taj later corrected her original comment that there were four visors for 400 nurses, saying she had meant to say there were four visors for 40 nurses.

The Welsh Government said at the weekend it had distributed "eight million extra pieces of" PPE.

But Ms Taj called for further detail: "Where is the stock being held, how is it being ordered, what types of masks and protective wear have been ordered?"

David Bailey, BMA Cymru chairman, told BBC Wales some local NHS managers had told staff not to use PPE in "direct patient-facing environments".

"Which is nonsense," he said, "because at the moment we have to assume that everybody potentially may have Covid.

"Just because it's not been diagnosed is not a reason not to use personal protection."

David Bailey said he believed the top of the Welsh Government was "getting the situation".

But he said he wanted to see the same level of transparency as Scotland, where "they're getting daily updates of exactly where the PPE is. We would like to see that sort of thing brought into Wales".


It comes after Unison Cymru said a lack of PPE was "killing" front-line staff.

Dr Stuart Walker, executive medical director for the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, said he was not aware of the incident Ms Taj raised.

"I'm confident that we have the right amount of PPE but I'm very happy to take that away and look into that," he said.

"My understanding, after spending time on the wards myself, is that the right level of PPE is available."

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "We're working very hard to make sure all our front-line NHS and social care staff have the protection and support they need to undertake their vital roles, this includes working with trade unions, health bodies, regulators and local government.

"So far, we've distributed more than 10.4 million items of PPE from our pandemic stocks, over and above our usual supply. We are working with the rest of the UK to ensure there is sufficient supply of PPE and we're working with Welsh businesses to produce PPE in Wales."