Doctor MP pleads to Boris Johnson ‘act now’ as NHS staff left without protection

An A&E doctor today confronted Boris Johnson and urged him to "act now" to protect NHS staff in the coronavirus crisis.

Tooting Labour MP Rosena Allin-Khan – who works shifts in her local hospital – said the government must secure safety equipment for NHS staff.

And she begged Boris Johnson to provide more protective equipment for doctors on the frontline of fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

Her question came after reports that UK hospitals are beginning to run out of vital equipment needed to protect nurses and doctors from catching coronavirus from infected patients.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson vowed to "ramp up" COVID-19 testing to 25,000 people per day within four weeks after anger that not all NHS staff could get a test.

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NHS staff have said they are unable to get hold of some face masks and other specialist personal protective equipment (PPE) which is needed to prevent them falling ill.

Dr Allin-Khan said: "Mr NHS colleagues on the frontline are already stressed with the pressure they face.

"We are in unprecedented times, I would like to know, where was the forward planning for PPE for our NHS and care staff?

"Where is the testing for medics? Why are waiting so long for mass testing?

"And why are social distancing measures merely just suggestions?

"Prime Minister it is right that we have all put party loyalty aside to work together during this time of national crisis, but we must scale up the response.

"Without good leadership, the people in this country will start to panic.

"There must be no more delay, the time to act is now.

Mr Johnson said he "completely agreed" as he thanked Dr Allin-Khan for the work she does in the NHS.

He added: "I can tell her we have stockpiles of PPE equipment and we are proceeding in accordance with the best scientific advice.

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And it is the timeliness of those measures which are vital in combatting this epidemic.

"In fact, that is how you save lives, and I am delighted the UK"s approach as been commended not just by Neil Ferguson of Imperial College today, but also by the World Health Organisation."

The issue was also raised by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who asked Mr Johnson to explain why the healthcare staff weren't being prioritised for testing."

Mr Johnson said the government is prioritising testing of NHS staff.

"It may be of the interest of the house to know that we are getting closer to delivering a test that will let people know if they have the disease."

"We should be testing on an industrial scale," Mr Cobyn said as he said the government needed to show a "greater sense of urgency" in getting frontline health workers tested.

There is a massive effort going on to secure "adequate supplies" of PPE equipment for NHS staff throughout the crisis, Mr Johnson said.

Ms Allin-Khan warned panic risked spreading through the country if the government didn't step up its response.

Boris Johnson has insisted that the country as the supplies it needs, but that deploying them at the correct time is the best strategy to fight the virus.

Alongside her concerns about the health service, she spoke heart-wrenchingly about making one last visit to her father before social distancing measures step up this weekend.

She told MPs: "Last night I visited my father in a care home and I am acutely aware I may have fed him for the very last time."

Meanwhile Mr Johnson said the NHS was now moving to carrying out up to 25,000┬ácoronavirus tests per day – a new announcement.

He added: "There is a massive effort going on, comparable to the effort to build enough ventilators, to ensure that we have adequate supplies of PPE equipment not just now, but throughout the outbreak."

A No10 spokesman clarified it would be 10,000 a day by next week and 25,000 a day within four weeks.

Priority candidates for testing will be NHS staff, along with those with the most severe illness, Boris Johnson's spokesman said.

It followed a No10 meeting in which the PM and Health Secretary vowed to support with "whatever support they need."

The government said the ramping up of testing will include "developing a point-of-care swab test outside of hospitals".

That will mean people with suspected symptoms can quickly find out if they have coronavirus, the government claimed. Yet the test is not yet developed – the government have asked industry "to rapidly develop this test."

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