Coronavirus: Pressure on government grows as two doctors die

Ministers under attack for not providing protective garments for NHS frontline workers

NHS coronavirus
The Royal Mint works on the production of a medical visor for the NHS
(Image credit: Geoff Caddick/AFP via Getty Images)

Pressure on the government to supply protective equipment for NHS staff is growing, following the deaths of the first British doctors from Covid-19.

Amged El-Hawrani, a 55-year-old ear, nose and throat consultant, died on Saturday, while Adil El Tayar, 63, an organ transplant specialist, passed away last week.

NHS medical director, Stephen Powis, described the deaths as “a stark reminder to the whole country that we all must take this crisis seriously”.

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Meanwhile, The Guardian reports that “as they mourned the death of their colleagues, doctors’ and nurses’ groups attacked continuing shortages of protective equipment – from masks to gowns”.

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Commenting on the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), Chaand Nagpaul, chairperson of the British Medical Association council, said: “The reality is that it is still not reaching hundreds, if not thousands, of frontline staff on the ground.

“Doctors here will understandably be concerned when they see images in the media of their colleagues around the world treating patients in full overalls and full face protection, and asking why the same is not recommended or available here.”

Clothes manufacturers claim the government has wasted time ordering PPE for NHS staff, with fashion and textile firms insisting they could have begun making gowns and masks for front-line workers 10 days ago.

"The government is dragging its heels and it is really, really frustrating," said Kate Hills from Make it British, a trade group. Hills told the BBC. “Everyone in the whole world is looking for the PPE. We need to look at local suppliers and mobilise supply here.”

According to Make it British, factories are receiving calls directly from local hospitals saying “can you make us anything, we are desperate for any protective equipment, anything that you can provide”.

Friends and famiy of El-Hawrani and El Tayar have paid tribute to the pair.

Pradeep Kumar, a surgeon, said he was angry at the loss of his friend, El-Hawrani. “Did it have to be this way?”, he said. “Such a waste of precious life.”

Tayar had spent his final days volunteering to stem the outbreak in an A&E department in the Midlands. “He wanted to be deployed where he would be most useful in the crisis,” his cousin said.

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