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The armed forces are being drafted in to help manage and distribute supplies to frontline NHS staff as medics continue to report shortages of vital equipment and fears for their safety.

Hospital trusts have been told they will be receiving deliveries of personal protective equipment (PPE) around the clock, with the Army supporting the supply chain. 

NHS England said “millions more items” of PPE had been delivered over the last few days to hospitals, ambulance trusts and care homes.

It follows a letter in the Sunday Times from almost 4,000 NHS workers who called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to “protect the lives of the life-savers” and resolve the “unacceptable” shortage of protective equipment.

A NHS nurse holds a Coronavirus testing kit (Getty Images)

The group said many medical workers were “putting their lives on the line every day” by treating coronavirus patients without appropriate protection, and they called on Mr Johnson to ensure an adequate supply of masks, safety glasses, gloves, aprons and protective suits.

NHS England said the Army would “play its part” from this week, offering personnel to “help to manage and offload supplies in busy NHS settings” and distributing PPE supplies to the front line.

Emily Lawson, NHS chief commercial officer, said: “We need massively increased, urgent volume of these supplies to the front line in this exceptional set of circumstances.

“Working with our partners, we are now seeing much increased capacity, and a more responsive supply chain to help take us through the coronavirus outbreak. We are extremely grateful for the Army’s support in doing so.”

The NHS said there had been increased pressure on the supply chain of PPE due to demand and a manufacturing slowdown, particularly in China.

It came after nurses at Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow revealed they were wearing bin bags.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We’re working round the clock to make sure trucks are on the ground delivering protective equipment to all who need it, so they are well-equipped to continue to fight the virus.”