A lack of protective equipment means district nurses are being forced to make the “appalling” decision over which patients they wear protection to treat, the deputy leader of Scottish Labour has said.
Jackie Baillie MSP said doctors and nurses in her constituency of Dumbarton have told her they do not have enough personal protective equipment (PPE).
She said the least the authorities could do in tackling the coronavirus pandemic is to provide adequate supplies of equipment for frontline workers to protect them against Covid-19.
Ms Baillie told the BBC’s Sunday Politics Scotland programme: “I have people in the constituency that are crying out for protective equipment.
“District nurses are having to make choices about who they wear protective equipment with. I mean that’s just appalling.”
She added: “They are not getting enough. Initially they weren’t getting any at all, now it seems they are not getting enough.
“I spoke to local GPs who told me they had two to three days’ supply. District nurses have contacted me saying they have so little PPE that what they are having to do is make choices about which patients they wear them with.
“We don’t know who has got coronavirus because testing is not community-wide so they are taking chances.
“We should applaud the bravery of our frontline services, whether it’s the NHS or social care or indeed the police, they are all working really hard for us.
“The least we can do is provide them with sufficient protective equipment so that they aren’t at risk themselves.”
Earlier this week, Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said protecting staff working on the front line is an “absolute priority” for the Scottish Government.
Speaking at the daily coronavirus briefing on Thursday as new UK-wide guidance was issued on the use of PPE for health and social care workers, she said millions of PPE items had been delivered and she wanted staff “to feel as safe as possible”.
Scotland’s chief medical officer Dr Catherine Calderwood told the briefing: “We have introduced new measures to improve the distribution of PPE, including a single point of contact for all health boards to manage local PPE supply and distribution, and an email address for NHS staff to contact if they do not have what they need.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We absolutely attach the highest priority to the protection of our frontline social care and healthcare workers, and the detailed clinical guidance issued this week has been jointly prepared by senior expert clinicians across the UK has been agreed by Scotland’s chief medical and nursing officers and contains specific detail for social care and home care workers.
“As the Health Secretary announced this week, we have introduced four direct supply lines for PPE, a streamlined ordering system for all staff who need PPE and a new dedicated email address for any health or social care worker who has any concerns about PPE supply to make contact with us immediately.
“We have adequate supplies of PPE in place and our new supply line measures are ensuring that the right equipment reaches the right locations with the highest possible urgency.
“The Cabinet Secretary wrote to all Members of Scottish Parliament last week to highlight a new email service that has been set up for MSPs and frontline professionals to raise concerns about PPE at specific establishments.
“That email service has ministerial oversight to ensure that the concerns raised are dealt with as swiftly as possible.
“We would encourage MSPs and frontline staff to report any issues immediately.”
The email address for NHS workers concerned about a lack of PPE is covid-19-health-PPE@gov.scot.