Johnson ‘focused on PPE delivery’ on return to work

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NHS staff say they are at risk because of equipment shortages

Boris Johnson focused on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at his first cabinet coronavirus meeting since returning to work, Downing Street said.

The government has been defending its record on PPE supplies for health workers, following a BBC investigation.

The BBC’s Panorama found the government failed to buy crucial protective equipment to cope with a pandemic.

Ministers say stockpiles had been designed for a flu pandemic, on scientific advice.

Covid-19 is a different disease with a higher hospitalisation rate, the government has said.

NHS staff say they are being put at risk because of the shortage of PPE.

The Panorama investigation found there were no gowns, visors, swabs or body bags in the government’s pandemic stockpile when Covid-19 reached the UK, and that the government ignored a warning from its own advisers to buy missing equipment.

Gowns are currently one of the items in shortest supply in the UK and they are now difficult to source because of the global shortage of PPE.

The expert committee that advises the government on pandemics, the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), recommended the purchase of gowns last June.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “We have been working to secure gowns and other PPE from across the globe – and domestically – for a number of months.

“The pandemic influenza preparatory programme was designed to prepare for flu outbreaks and the decision was based on advice from Nervtag – gowns are a recent recommendation from Nervtag and would be procured for future preparations.”

The spokesman said the PM had focused on PPE delivery at a meeting of the cabinet’s coronavirus response group on Monday morning – his first day back at work after recovering from the virus.

Downing Street said that on Monday the government had delivered 12 million items of PPE to 227 NHS Trusts and other locations, including gloves, aprons, masks, eye protectors and gowns.

Responding to claims in the Panorama investigation that gloves were sometimes counted individually, making the figure appear bigger than it was, No 10 said: “Gloves are counted differently depending on clinical settings.

“Sometimes they’re single and sometimes pairs. They are often counted in fours in high risk areas. They’re counted in a number of different ways.”

On Tuesday, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove told MPs: “Like every government across the world, we have had to respond to this new virus by assuring not just with personal protective equipment, but in every respect, that we are in a position to retool, refit and to upgrade our response.”

Mr Gove added that the government was on course to meet its target of 100,000 coronavirus tests a day on Thursday, but the figures would not be published until Saturday.

You can watch the full Panorama programme, Has the Government Failed the NHS? on iPlayer here.

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