Nurses on some coronavirus wards are being put at risk by caring for patients without any protective equipment at all, leading nurses have said.

The Royal College of Nursing called for the NHS to step up its provision of personal protective equipment, warning that health workers could be much more easily infected with the virus if they are not properly protected.

Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: “The Government is finally prioritising Covid-19 testing for NHS staff, including social care, but it is completely unacceptable that weeks into this crisis there are colleagues in all settings – hospitals, community or care homes – who have not been provided with personal protective equipment.

“I am hearing from nurses who are treating patients in Covid-19 wards without any protection at all. This cannot continue. They are putting themselves, their families and their patients at risk.

“I am hearing from nurses who are treating patients in Covid-19 wards without any protection at all. This cannot continue. 

“They are putting themselves, their families and their patients at risk.”

The Telegraph understands the NHS is restricting the PPE it provides to social workers, nurses in hospices or workers in private hospitals.

Matthew Reed, the Chief Executive of Marie Curie, said the charity did not have sufficient supplies to protect its workers.

The news came as Professor Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians, revealed one in four doctors is already absent from work, either with coronavirus or because a family member or housemate is ill.

The World Health Organisation has warned that the “chronic” shortage of PPE is threatening “our collective ability to save lives”.

On Friday, WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “When health workers are at risk, we’re all at risk.”

The Department of Health and Social Care said it has issued millions of pieces of equipment and set up a national helpline so those in need can ask for more.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick told a Downing Street briefing on Sunday that 170 million masks, some 42.8 million gloves, 13.7 million aprons, 182,000 gowns, almost 10 million items of cleaning equipment and 2.3 million pairs of eye protectors were being delivered to frontline staff.

He said: “Every single GP practice, dental practice and community pharmacy has had a PPE delivery. All care homes, hospices, and home care providers have, or will shortly, receive a delivery.”

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