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UK survey shows 6 in 10 NHS doctors facing shortage of scrubs

Photos from Scrub and Face protection Hub volunteers

A recent article published in the Guardian newspaper reveals 6 in 10 NHS doctors are still facing shortages of scrubs.  Many hospitals have received extra scrubs made and donated by local volunteers as per the photo above showing scrubs received from Scrub and Face Protection Hub.  A recent survey undertaken by the Doctors’ Association UK found that 61% of doctors said that the hospital where they worked was facing a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) as first identified during the coronavirus pandemic.

In recent months, more and more NHS staff have begun wearing scrubs to protect themselves against Covid-19.  Scrubs are usually reserved for surgical teams who wear this sanitary clothing in operating environments.  The prevalence of Covid-19 in hospitals has prompted many hospital staff to switch from wearing their own clothes at work to using scrubs.

The big increase in demand for scrubs from doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and occupational therapists has left many hospitals unable to keep up and also put unprecedented pressure on hospital cleaning services. 

“Six in 10 doctors responding to our survey said that they had no access to scrubs at their place of work. In addition to personal protective equipment, the provision of scrubs for healthcare workers is vital to ensuring that they don’t take the infection home with them,” said Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden, the president of the DAUK.

Shortages are so common that some medical teams and hospital trusts have resorted to buying their own scrubs or accepting donations from volunteer groups and laundering these at home which could risk spreading the virus, Dr Batt-Rawden added. “This is far from ideal as laundering this clothing involves transporting potentially contaminated clothing home.  Protective clothing must be considered to be at a par with other PPE by Public Health England and must be provided to staff by the NHS… A failure to adequately supply scrubs to staff may risk further community spread of Covid-19.”

Government ignored warning to stockpile PPE as Covid-19 spread

Among the 638 doctors who took part in the survey, many reported they were risking spreading the infection by washing their own scrubs. One said: “I’m wearing my own scrubs, taking them home and washing them.” Another said: “We were told to bring our own scrubs and wash them at home.”  The Scrub and Face Protection Hub (S&FP Hub) charity has been supplying scrubs and other PPE, such as visors and face coverings since early April, serving over 200 organisations including hospitals, hospices, care homes, and GP surgeries across the country.  The S&FP Hub provides the materials needed to volunteers who have given their time and skills to support our nation during this pandemic.  Partnerships with a variety of voluntary organisations and clubs e.g. Med Supply Drive UK, NHS Hero Support, Scrub Hub and the Liverpool Ladies Sewing Club is another way the S&FP Hub source face coverings and scrubs.

“The most worrying is the requests we’ve had from the very frontline, including ICUs, A&E and anaesthetists. All of the demand has shown concerning shortages,” said Megan Phillips, a lawyer who is one of the volunteers running the S&FP Hub.  “Frontline workers are really concerned about wearing their own clothing as they don’t have enough protective equipment to go over the top of it. Staff tend to put on scrubs instead of their own clothing for shifts, something they wouldn’t have done pre-Covid, which they can remove at the end of their shift and then put back on their own clothing and wash scrubs themselves,” she added.