GPs have taken to ordering protective gear from Amazon in a bid to protect staff caring for coronavirus patients.

Global shortages of the equipment medics and carers need to protect themselves against Covid-19 have led to shortfalls in the UK.

At least one GP practice has ordered face shields on Amazon in a bid to protect its staff, after being unable to get kit through the traditional supply chain, the PA news agency has learned.

There has been an outcry across health and care sectors over shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to protect people working with patients on the frontline.

This is despite government assurances that millions of pieces of kit have been delivered across the country and that staff with concerns can call a national helpline.

Meanwhile, medics said they had been “gagged” over complaining to the media about PPE concerns.

And respiratory physiotherapists, who work with patients who have problems with their breathing, have been threatened with disciplinary action if they raise concerns about the shortages, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) said

PPE for health workers
(PA Graphics)

CSP chief executive Karen Middleton said: “Physiotherapy staff are playing a critical role in treating patients with Covid-19 but are facing an unacceptable risk through a lack of appropriate protection.

“These concerns have been ignored for too long by governments across the UK so we are now demanding that action is taken to protect not only our members, but the NHS as well.”

The union Unite said home-visiting health visitors and community nurses need PPE “urgently”.

The British Medical Association said healthcare workers need clarity from ministers about what risks they should not have to take if they do not have adequate PPE.

And on Monday the Royal College of Nursing said staff on some Covid wards are caring for patients without any PPE.

During the daily Downing Street briefing, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said: “Just yesterday hundreds of thousands of aprons, eye protectors, respiratory masks, surgical masks and gloves reached the frontline and there is a 24-hour helpline if any frontline NHS worker is concerned about not having the PPE equipment they need, they can call in order to ensure that PPE is delivered.”

Dr Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer for England, added: “The first thing to say is that the UK has always had sufficient stocks to date that it needs, against its guidelines, and those guidelines are amongst the best in the world.”

She added that they are “continuously checking” PPE guidance and “creating an e-system” which will make it easier for care homes.

Dr Harries said: “The distribution element has been a little bit tricky at times and we have now taken a whole strand of the logistics, including with the army’s support actually, out, so that we are developing a UK position on that stock and distribution flow.

“And the underlying critical point about this is that the PPE should go to match where the critical, clinical risk is.”