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NHS staff describe ‘dangerous’ shortage of intensive care beds amid coronavirus outbreak

50 healthcare workers describe a dangerous shortage of intensive care beds. Credit: PA Images

NHS staff across Wales are calling for 'urgent steps' to protect themselves from coronavirus.

In an open letter to the Welsh Government, 50 healthcare workers describe a dangerous shortage of intensive care beds and protective equipment in hospitals.

In the letter, staff are demanding testing for all healthcare staff and new patients, protective equipment for frontline workers and mass production of ventilators.

The two major unions TUC and Unison have backed the letter which calls the outbreak a "human crisis":

“This is an unprecedented human crisis which is placing a huge strain on the Welsh NHS and all frontline staff. We are prepared to give our all to save lives, but at the moment, the UK Government is doing nowhere near enough to prevent the spread of the virus nor manage the pressure on the NHS.

Frontline workers are not currently being systematically tested for the virus, meaning we have no way of knowing who to isolate in order to stop it spreading, including within hospitals. The lack of testing runs contrary to World Health Organisation guidelines and is a fundamental obstacle if we want to contain the virus and ensure the highest possible provision for patients and staff."

Staff say they're concerned about their welfare as they're not being provided with "proper personal protective equipment."

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The letter adds: "The more doctors that get sick and have to isolate, the longer it is going to take to control the spread of this virus….

...We also have a dangerous shortage of Intensive Care Unit beds in Wales, as well as a lack of the ventilators that we need to treat the sick. As the crisis intensifies, the current shortages will become untenable for staff, patients and the NHS itself."

A Welsh Government spokesperson thanked staff for their ongoing support at this time.

They said: “The safety and welfare of staff and patients is our priority. We are taking urgent measures to increase capacity, recruit and train more staff, increase ventilators, roll out testing to frontline healthcare workers and ensure the correct protective equipment is available.

“The Health Minister acted swiftly to announce a raft of measures to increase capacity within the NHS to deal with the outbreak, including postponing planned appointments and surgery.”

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