Frontline medics in the coronavirus outbreak have been asked to reuse personal protective equipment (PPE) items when treating patients ahead of expected shortages.
The government has been under fire for weeks over the distribution of protective garments, with some doctors, nurses, and carers warning that they have had to work in situations where they feel unsafe.
Public Health England (PHE) reversed its guidance on Friday evening which said long-sleeved disposable fluid repellent gowns should be worn when treating Covid-19 patients.
Medical staff in England will now be expected to continue working if they do not have full-length protective gowns.
In other parts of the UK, where health provision is devolved from Westminster control, officials have moved to say there are not the shortages seen in England.
According to the latest PHE guidance, if full-length gowns are not available clinical staff are advised to wear “disposable, non-fluid repellent gowns or coveralls” or “washable surgical gowns” with aprons.
The guidance adds that staff should wash their forearms afterwards.
The updated guidance states that the “reuse of PPE should be implemented until confirmation of adequate re-supply is in place”.
It continued: “Some compromise is needed to optimise the supply of PPE in times of extreme shortages”.
The change in advice comes as the coronavirus death toll among NHS workers rose to at least 50.