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GP practice PPE supply remains ‘a postcode lottery’, says BMA

GP practice PPE stocks remain ‘a postcode lottery’ as the Covid-19 pandemic rages on, the BMA’s GP Committee has told Pulse.

The news comes as a major BMA survey, of over 16,300 doctors from across hospitals and general practice, showed that a majority (65%) of doctors feel only partly or not at all protected as they work through the crisis.

Over half (55%) of GPs and just over a third (38%) of hospital doctors said they had been forced to rely on PPE that was donated to them, or which they purchased themselves, during the pandemic.

Over a quarter of all respondents (28%) also said they were suffering from work-related depression, anxiety, stress, burnout, emotional distress or other mental health condition, and that it had been made worse by the pandemic.

Speaking to Pulse, BMA sessional GP committee chair Dr Ben Molyneux likened obtaining PPE to a ‘postcode lottery’.

He said: ‘Some of the simple bits like aprons and gloves are probably not an issue in many places anymore, though [there is] the whole question about whether that’s acceptable in terms of the level of protection it offers, but some of the specifics, like gowns and eyewear, continue to be a problem. That does mean that it’s a bit of a postcode lottery.

‘We’re still finding people are relying on volunteers and donations, which is concerning. In my committee meeting, four or five different members from different regions all said specifically around eye protection that they’re relying on donations from the public for appropriate eyewear because that isn’t filtering through to practices and particularly to sessional GPs.’

BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said the results illustrated ‘how resourceful’ doctors have been and ‘how much support there has been from the general public in providing kit’.

But he added that ‘far more importantly, it is a damning indictment of the Government’s abject failure to make sure healthcare workers across the country are being supplied with the life-saving kit they should be’.

The BMA has previously advised GPs that they can refuse to treat patients if their PPE is ‘inadequate’.

Pulse has been charting the ongoing problems with PPE, including that GPs have faced little option but to resort to supplies provided by cottage industries, dental surgeries, schools and their patients.

Meanwhile, the Government’s new online system for community health and care services to order PPE is being piloted with GP practices, with plans to roll it out across the country ‘in the coming weeks’.

The much-delayed ‘Clipper’ system, which is being developed by online auction site Ebay, will allow primary, social and community care providers to request PPE from central NHS supplies.