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Bishop's Stortford's doctors appeal for face masks to protect nursing staff

An urgent appeal for protective masks has been made by the doctors caring for more than 63,000 people across Bishop's Stortford, Sawbridgeworth and Much Hadham.

Dr Sian Stanley, a partner at Stortford's Church Street surgery and clinical director of the Stort Valley and Villages Primary Care Network, said the medical teams caring in the community were desperate for FFP3 (filtering face piece) equipment.

These are valved filtering masks, recommended by the World Health Organisation when protection of the respiratory system is needed, such as during the current coronavirus crisis.

An FFP3 face mask (32281304)
An FFP3 face mask (32281304)

However, they are also used in industries by workers exposed to fine dust or oil, water-based mists, hazardous pharmaceutical powders and asbestos, and Dr Stanley is appealing to anyone with spare supplies to come forward.

"The district nursing teams are going to be going out to look after a lot of potentially very ill people in the community, as are the GPs," she said.

"We're hoping that the people of Bishop's Stortford could plug the gap in the PPE (personal protective equipment) supply chain as we haven't been able to get hold of PPE in large enough numbers."

She stressed: "To be clear, it is FFP3 face masks that we are lacking. People who work in the car industry may have some that we could use? Or any suppliers that have any that we could buy for our team?"

Current NHS policy is that unless a patient is being intubated or undergoing another high-risk procedure, paper masks are adequate.

But Dr Stanley said: "I'm personally concerned that there have been a number of reports that doctors and nurses are getting very unwell. We've been told of a number of ITU (intensive care unit) admissions for health care workers so I'm keen to protect the community teams as much as possible. It's plausible that I'm overreacting but I'll apologise later if that's the case."

She said that patients being cared for by the district nursing teams should be prepared for staff wearing gowns and masks but she stressed that for low-risk procedures such as injections and dressings, a lower-grade paper mask, gown and visor were safe.

"I want to make sure that the community teams are as safe as possible and, in protecting them, I am protecting patients," said Dr Stanley.

Stort Valley and Villages Primary Care Network comprises the Church Street, South Street and Parsonage practices in Stortford, Sawbridgeworth's Central Surgery in Bell Street and Much Hadham Health Centre.

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