Union anger over lack of PPE planning

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock arriving at Downing Street, London Pictur

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock arriving at Downing Street, London Picture: Aaron Chown/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Union bosses say faith in health secretary Matt Hancock is “draining away” – after a change in PPE guidance meant doctors and nurses could be asked to reuse items when treating coronavirus patients.

Unite’s assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail suggested Mr Hancock, who is also West Suffolk MP, may even have to consider his position over continued PPE shortages.

It comes amid warnings some trusts will run out of supplies this weekend because we have “reached the point where national stock of fully fluid repellent gowns and coveralls (is) exhausted”.

Mr Hancock said he “wishes he had a magic wand and have PPE fall from the sky”, pointing to a global shortage where there is “less PPE in the world than the world needs”.

MORE: Backlash as NHS staff told ‘avoid tweeting about political issues like PPE’Rachel Harrison, of the GMB, said the union raised critical protective equipment supply issues with the Government more than a month ago.

“It took until last Friday for ministers’ PPE plan to be published, and it’s falling apart after just a week,” she said.

“The health secretary now has serious and urgent questions to answer. Trust is draining away. He must urgently explain how this apparently non-clinical decision was made to downgrade public health advice in apparent contravention of global standards and previous advice.

“GMB won’t tolerate a situation where our members are pushed on to the front line without the basic kit they need to do their jobs safely.

Most Read

“NHS and ambulance staff will now face unacceptable risks.”

MORE: Google tracking shows where people in Suffolk have been during lockdownIt comes as a British Medical Association (BMA) survey of more than 6,000 doctors across the country said a significant amount of them remain without the protection they need to guard against Covid-19.

It echoed another survey of 14,000 medical staff by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) which found half of nurses have felt pressure to work without appropriate protective equipment during the crisis.

The fears over shortages come after new guidance which means doctors and nurses in England could be asked to work without full-length gowns and to reuse items when treating coronavirus patients provoked a backlash from groups representing frontline NHS staff.

MORE: National coronavirus death toll surpasses 15,000“I would love to be able to wave a magic wand and have PPE fall from the sky in large quantities and be able to answer your question about when shortages will be resolved,” Mr Hancock said.

“But given that we have a global situation in which there is less PPE in the world than the world needs, obviously it’s going to be a huge pressure point.”

He also urged more companies to volunteer to manufacture PPE domestically.

MORE: Hospitals in Ipswich and Colchester recruiting specialists to deliver personal protectionMs Cartmail, of Unite, described the lack of PPE as a “national scandal”, adding: “Health secretary Matt Hancock needs to sort out the logjam in PPE supplies urgently, otherwise he may have to consider his position as this situation can’t continue, as health professionals would be quite right to decline to put themselves in danger.

“This would go against every instinct in their body and every tenet of their professional training, but already the public is very alarmed at the rising toll of NHS staff who have died due to coronavirus as they have battled the pandemic.

“We are not just talking about NHS staff in hospitals, but those working in the community, such as health visitors and community nurses, and those employed in social care settings, such as care homes.”

MORE: All the latest coronavirus news in your area

This morning, the Government appointed London 2012 Olympics chief executive Paul Deighton to “unleash the potential of UK industry to scale up domestic PPE manufacturing”.

Mr Hancock said: “Just as Lord Beaverbrook spearheaded the wartime efforts on aircraft production, the appointment of Lord Deighton will bring renewed drive and focus to coordinate this unprecedented peacetime challenge.

“Lord Deighton led the delivery of the Olympics.

“Now he will lead a singular and relentless focus on PPE as the country’s top manufacturing priority, with the full weight of the Government behind him.”

• Join our Facebook group and sign up for our newsletter for coronavirus updates in your area.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter