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Only two-thirds of GP practices have ‘adequate’ eye protection, says BMA

Fewer than two-thirds of practices report having ‘adequate’ eye protection, the BMA has revealed.

Meanwhile, less than half of GPs said they felt fully protected at work, according to a BMA survey.

The latest BMA Covid-19 tracker survey, which closed on 9 July, surveyed almost 2,000 GPs in England and Wales on the PPE available in their practice.

It found that only 62% said they had ‘adequate’ eye protection, while 10% reported ‘shortages’ and 11% said there was ‘no supply at all’.

The figures were similar for fluid repellent masks, with 68% of GPs saying they had enough and 11% reporting shortages.

And just 13% of GPs said they had adequate numbers of long-sleeved disposable gowns while almost a third (29%) said there were none at all. 

This has led to just 44% of 1,827 GPs feeling fully protected at work and 48% reporting feeling ‘partly’ protected.

And 20% said they had felt pressures to see patients without adequate protection.

Meanwhile, over a third (35%) are ‘not confident’ their practice has been supplied with adequate numbers of face masks or face coverings for patients that needed them.

Lincolnshire LMC medical secretary Dr Kieran Sharrock told Pulse that there are local concerns around PPE availability amidst the ‘tsunami of patient demand’ practices are facing.

He said: ‘The issue is we’re trying to reinstate services, seeing more patients face-to-face, doing physical examinations, smear tests, blood tests – all the things you now need more PPE to do.

‘And obviously the hospitals are in a similar situation. Who gets to choose who gets [PPE] first?’

There is also ‘uncertainty’ around PPE guidance and the ‘appropriateness’ of the eyewear that is available, Dr Sharrock added.

He said: ‘The full face shield is obviously the most appropriate form but some practices haven’t been able to get hold of that and they’re having to just use goggles.’

A spokesperson for the BMA said: ‘While the PPE situation may have improved for healthcare workers since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, our survey reveals that there are clearly still issues in many settings.

‘It is imperative that practices are able to guarantee that staff and their patients will be adequately protected with enough supplies of adequate PPE. This will be especially important as practices start to open up and offer more face-to-face appointments in the future.’

Last week, the Government added visors to the PPE that GP practices can order from the central emergency portal.

It follows months of PPE supply issues – in April, a BMA survey revealed that over a third of GPs lacked eye protection.

The latest survey also found that more than half of GPs have treated patients with suspected long-term symptoms of coronavirus in the past week, while most GPs who are shielding from coronavirus do not feel ready to return to work.

It comes as GPs have been inundated with questions from patients about the new requirement to wear a face covering in shops in England from next week.

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