A Public Health England spokeswoman confirmed that the “safe reuse of items” was currently under consideration, but no decisions had yet been made.
The document states that protective masks and gowns could need to be washed and reused when stocks run low and admits there is currently a “reduced ability to re-supply” PPE, the BBC reported.
Some hospitals have already begun cleaning single-use gowns to preserve stocks, according to emails seen by the broadcaster.
The plans are also said to include buying “building” or “sportswear” eye protection with extensions to cover the side of the eyes if there are no available goggles or face shields.
Health workers could also be forced to wear washable laboratory coats and patient gowns where there are no available disposable gowns or coveralls.
It is understood that the chief medical officers and chief nurses of the four UK nations recently discussed the issue. Following the meeting, a draft document written by Public Health England and dated 13 April suggested solutions for “acute supply shortages” of PPE.
“These are last-resort alternatives, but, given the current in-country stock and the reduced ability to re-supply, we are suggesting that these are implemented until confirmation of adequate re-supply is in place,” it reportedly stated.
It is also believed to have suggested face masks could be re-purposed using various disinfection or sterilisation methods, including steam and UV disinfection.
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of vaporised hydrogen peroxide to decontaminate certain masks and respirators for use by staff.
The leaked document said some of the last-resort measures would need to be reviewed and approved by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
In a statement, Dr Susan Hopkins, from Public Health England, said: “PPE is a precious resource and it is crucial that everyone in health and social care has access to the right protective equipment.
“All options are being considered to ensure this, including the safe reuse of items, but no decisions have been made.”
An HSE spokesman said: “In line with the governments PPE strategy, it is right that, where possible, strategies for optimising the supply of PPE should be explored.
“We are discussing with Public Health England ways in which pressure can be eased on the supply chain. This includes potentially reusing certain equipment where it is safe to do so.”
At the weekend health secretary Matt Hancock declined to apologise to nurses forced to choose between treating patients or protecting themselves due to shortages of protective kit.
Cabinet colleague Priti Patel was criticised for saying she is “sorry if people feel there have been failings” in the governments supply of PPE.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA), told the BBC the latest leaked last-resort plans underlined “the urgency” with which this situation had to be sorted.
“The government must be honest about PPE supplies,” he said. “If [Public Health England] is proposing the reuse of equipment, it needs to be demonstrably driven by science and the best evidence in keeping with international standards, rather than by availability, and with absolutely no compromise to the protection of healthcare workers.”