By Sarah Young
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain brought in the army on Monday to help deliver supplies of protective equipment to healthcare workers after doctors said they felt like "cannon fodder" and pleaded with the government to provide the right kit.
The distribution and delivery of millions of items of personal protective equipment (PPE) including masks will now be carried out by the army who will drive trucks throughout the day and night, health minister Matt Hancock said in a statement.
Millions more items have been provided to hospitals, ambulance trust, GP practices, care homes and other health services in the last few days, he added, after complaints emerged from medical staff that they did not have enough kit.
In a letter pleading with Prime Minister Boris Johnson to increase PPE supplies, over 6,000 frontline doctors said they were being asked to put their lives at risk with out-of-date masks, and low stocks of equipment.
"We want to see action immediately," the letter in The Sunday Times said, adding that it was very upsetting to hear healthcare professionals say they felt like "cannon fodder".
Hancock admitted to the BBC that there had been "challenges" and said that the authorities were trying to "solve" those problems.
Protective kit from the national stockpile reserved for pandemic influenza had now been released said the joint statement from the department of health and National Health Service on Monday.
They said that supply of protective equipment was rising.
"We are taking urgent action to ensure dedicated frontline NHS and social care staff – who are working tirelessly to tackle this outbreak – feel supported. Today they are getting millions more PPE kits as part of that promise," Hancock said.
There was now enough supply of PPE available, added the statement, but acknowledged that there could be challenges in future due to unprecedented global demand plus the fact that most kit is made in China, where coronavirus hit production.
"The NHS is working closely with the government, NHS Supply Chain and industry to continue to secure additional supplies," the authorities said in a statement.
(Reporting by Sarah Young; editing by Kate Holton/Guy Faulconbridge)