Whipps Cross staff at odds with NHS trust over availability of PPE

Staff at Whipps Cross Hospital claim they are struggling due to a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) – but the hospital’s NHS trust insists there is enough.

Len Hockey, a Whipps Cross porter and Unite union secretary, said the situation was “like a game of musical chairs”, with staff uncertain whether there would be enough PPE for each shift.

He said this left some staff holding onto expired masks for two or three shifts, due to a fear there would be nothing else available if they gave them up.

A spokesperson for Barts Health NHS Trust, which manages the hospital, insisted yesterday there was “sufficient stock” of all PPE.

Speaking at a meeting of the Waltham Forest Trades Council last week, Len Hockey said there was a “scandalous scarcity” of PPE at the hospital, leading to staff shortages as people fall ill.

He said: “Every staff group and discipline has been scrambling around and placed in a state of vulnerability, making do with masks which have passed their expiry date.”

He added that a lack of training on how to use PPE has “led to fear, anxiety and anger” with workers “having to make it up as they go”.

Mr Hockey is currently self-isolating after falling ill with a suspected case of coronavirus and said that many services are closing due to a shortage of healthy staff.

Colleagues still at work have told him PPE is arriving but “not reaching the workers and the departments”.

Regarding the regular claps for carers and health staff, the most recent of which took place last night, he said the gesture was “emotional and inspiring” but that “we need to go far, far further”.

A spokesperson for Barts Health NHS Trust denied the hospital was facing a shortage of PPE.

They said: “Whipps Cross Hospital has sufficient stock of all personal protective equipment (PPE) including masks, hats, visors and gowns. 

“Staff and patient safety is of paramount importance and where supply has been an issue locally, as it has been nationally, we have worked with system partners to ensure our staff have what they need.

“Whipps Cross has introduced robust procurement measures. All surgical gowns are being held centrally to control our stock and a schedule of PPE deliveries is updated daily to ensure that there remains a sufficient supply across the hospital that meet the requirements for staff.”

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter