GPs were forced to put their own lives and health at risk because of PPE shortages, BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul told a Parliamentary committee.
At a public accounts committee meeting on 10 December, the GP told attendees: ‘What we were told in February and early March from the Government was that there were adequate plans and adequate stockpiles, the message to us was “don’t worry, we have enough”.
‘As the weeks went by in March, we were getting reports increasingly from doctors that they didn’t have access to the PPE they needed.
‘What was even worse for those of us in general practice was that we tried to buy our own and when we looked at all our normal suppliers they had run out because much of those supplies had been directed to the NHS and weren’t available.’
Dr Nagpaul cited experiences at his own practice, during which staff sought PPE from Amazon and construction suppliers.
He said: ‘We were getting very worried that patients were coming to our practice [and] we had no supplies from the NHS. We tried online suppliers, the normal suppliers who supply the practice with medical equipment, and they had no supplies.
‘We paid £150 for five FFP2 masks, that was how desperate we had become.’
Dr Richard Fieldhouse, NASGP chair, said: ‘Dr Nagpaul’s testimony helps add real weight to the evidence around the problems general practice has been facing. Rather than seeking to blame, he is contributing to how we begin to learn from everything that has taken place over the last 12 months.
‘The UK needs to move forward on the basis that this pandemic is only the first we’ve experienced in living memory, and that for the next pandemic we will have prepared enough for the government and NHS workforce to immediately put plans into action in a heartbeat.’
NHS Providers reported on an ‘extremely worrying surge in COVID-19 admissions’ last week.