Nearly 1 in 3 on Front Line Lacked PPE: Medscape UK COVID-19 Poll

Tim Locke

May 19, 2020

A Medscape UK reader poll 1 has highlighted issues doctors have been experiencing in getting the right PPE for COVID-19 patient care.

In a report published today UK Ethics Report 2020: COVID-19, Life, Death, and Pain we report on coronavirus issues and wider ethical dilemmas.

The Medscape UK reader poll 1 showed 64% of respondents had been involved in frontline COVID-19 care and 31% experienced COVID-19 patient contact without adequate PPE.

Only 16% thought returning doctors and nurses, medical students, and others involved in the care of COVID-19 patients had adequate supervision and training.

Inadequate PPE

Results from a separate Medscape/WebMD survey 2 showed 74% described their PPE as inadequate to some degree. Kit was ‘not at all’ adequate for 14%.

PPE was ‘adequate’ for 20% or ‘very adequate’ for 5%.

While there was little change in those reporting burnout before COVID-19 and during the pandemic, the poll found those reporting being 'very burned out' doubled from 8% to 16%.

Vaccines and Drugs

Oxford and Imperial's COVID-19 vaccines are being fast-tracked. In the Medscape UK reader poll 1 54% were in favour of accelerated processes for COVID vaccine and drug development, but 18% were against this.

One in 20 respondents had prescribed drugs with no specific market authorisation for COVID-19 patients.

COVID-19 Ethics

Six respondents (2%) in the Medscape UK reader poll 1 said they'd taken time off sick during the coronavirus outbreak when they were healthy or didn’t need to self-isolate. These were due to concerns over their own health and concerns about family members.

Some specific ethics problems were reported by 44% of respondents.

These related to issues including:

  • Treating COVID-19 patients without appropriate PPE

  • Who/when to intubate

  • DNR discussions/policies

  • Bullying/pressure from management

  • Lack of ability to practise properly, eg, not able to examine patients

  • Treatment/management of patients who don't have COVID-19 but who do have serious/other health problems

  • Fear - for patients/colleagues/family/self

  • Implications of 'mismanagement' by UK Governments

Overall, 41% of doctors were happy to be working in the NHS during the pandemic. One said: "I'm not just happy but very proud to be working in the NHS."

  1. Data were collected between 14th and 26th April 2020, and 340 UK doctors' responses were received.

  2. The Medscape/WebMD online reader poll had responses from 110 UK doctors between 9th-20th April this year.


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