Eddie Mair confronts NHS Providers about "reprehensible" staff silencing over PPE shortages

1 April 2020, 20:09

By Fiona Jones

Eddie Mair confronts NHS Providers deputy chief about the "reprehensible" silencing of frontline workers over inadequate protective equipment.

The government has announced the restricted testing of NHS workers will be lifted as it has been reported only 2000 of the one million frontline staff have been tested.

In today's daily coronavirus press conference, Public Health England's Dr Yvonne Doyle said the aim is to get “thousands to hundreds of thousands” of tests of NHS staff in the coming weeks. Today there is capacity to test 3,000 staff, she says.

NHS Providers deputy chief Saffron Cordery said this will make a "huge difference" as well as the new regulation to give NHS organisations the agency to choose which of their staff members should be tested.

Eddie Mair pushed Ms Cordery to ask where the initial 15% cap on testing NHS staff came from.

"We don't have the full raw materials for the testing so there are supply issues here...the thinking was that it was absolutely critical we knew which patients had coronavirus so they could be treated appropriately," Ms Cordery said.

"I think what the government is understanding is that clinicians on the front line are pretty clear who has coronavirus and who doesn't so they can prioritise staff testing because that's where the unknowns are."

Eddie Mair confronts NHS Providers chief over "reprehensible" staff silencing about inadequate protective equipment
Eddie Mair confronts NHS Providers chief over "reprehensible" staff silencing about inadequate protective equipment. Picture: PA

She said the bigger concern is about supply; Ms Cordery said we have the laboratories in place and staff to do the testing, but "what we don't have is the swabs or the chemical reagents."

Eddie Mair quoted medical workers' unions who have said the lack of protective equipment is a "crisis within a crisis" and confronted Ms Cordery over reports frontline staff are being silenced from speaking out about the issue.

"Would you agree with me if any senior people in the NHS are telling their staff not to talk about this...that that's reprehensible?" asked Eddie.

Ms Cordery responded: "What we need to look at here is the need for the government and those central authorities to actually publish and explain why they have chosen to go down the route that they have chosen to go down in terms of protective equipment."

Eddie clarified that Ms Cordery did not understand why the system has changed when it comes to providing PPE.

"What we're doing here is seeing a situation where the supply of protective equipment needs to be safeguarded over the long term so we're balancing risks in terms of the equipment that's been supplied and the longer term until we get new supplies in," Ms Cordery.