Anger over lack of PPE for frontline NHS workers as Covid-19 death toll passes 16,000

20 April 2020, 10:22

NHS workers in PPE attend to a patient at St Thomas' Hospital
NHS workers in PPE attend to a patient at St Thomas' Hospital. Picture: Getty

By Matt Drake

There is growing anger at the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for NHS workers as a consignment of 400,000 gowns was delayed.

The government has been under increasing pressure to ensure the safety of frontline health staff and one leading NHS figure revealed his "bitter experience" of the lack of basic items such as gowns in recent weeks.

It comes as the number of hospital deaths of people who tested positive for coronavirus passed 16,000, with a further 596 announced on Sunday. The figure does not include those who died in care homes.

There are worries over the lack of PPE as a much-anticipated shipment of 84 tonnes, including 400,000 gowns, failed to arrive from Turkey as scheduled.

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Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers said: "We have, over the last 24 hours, seen an unhelpful focus on one individual consignment coming from Turkey.

"We are told that this consignment is still stuck in Turkey with no certainty, at the time this comment was issued, on how many gowns, if any, will leave for the UK, (and) when.

"Given the current uncertainties over gown manufacture and supply, due to global shortages, we suggest that any future announcements on what gowns might be available for delivery, when, just focus on what we can be certain of.

"Bitter experience in recent weeks has shown that promised consignments of gowns cannot be relied on until they come, are checked and found to contain the right kit.

"For example, a consignment of 200,000 gowns that arrived from China last week actually contained only 20,000 gowns. This follows previous instances of consignments of gowns being mislabelled and failing safety tests."

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Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the British Medical Association, said: "We made it clear weeks ago that we need to do something about the likelihood of a lack of protective equipment."

Claudia Paoloni, president of the doctors' union HCSA, said: said: "Our NHS workers are going above and beyond on a daily basis to heal. They should expect at the very least adequate protection to keep them fit and well to engage in this fight.

"Yet instead they are being asked to sacrifice themselves due to the failings of others."

Mr Williamson told the daily Downing Street press conference: "What we've seen over the last few months is an enormous effort, it's a national effort, but it's also an international effort to secure PPE from right around the globe, but we've seen so many brilliant British businesses repurpose themselves in order to be able to provide it."

Downing Street hit back at newspaper reports that Mr Johnson and his administration dragged their feet in the run-up to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Number 10 accused the Sunday Times of "falsehoods" and "errors" after the newspaper published a piece in which a Whitehall source claimed the government "missed the boat on testing and PPE"

A government spokesman said: "This article contains a series of falsehoods and errors and actively misrepresents the enormous amount of work which was going on in government at the earliest stages of the coronavirus outbreak."

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