The UK government has now delivered more than two billion personal protective equipment (PPE) to NHS personnel and health care providers, she claimed today.
Ministry of Health officials announced the milestone, calling it a “Herculean cross-government effort,” adding that it had ordered an additional 28 billion items from PPE.
During the height of the crisis, the government was despised by NHS staff and health care providers for not providing enough equipment to work safely.
Doctors and nurses regularly reported feeling unsafe at work because they had to reuse masks and gloves, and the British Medical Association even warned that doctors would die without proper protection. Nursing homes were left with ‘meager’ supplies.
Despite repeated promises from the government, health and health workers still complained of PPE deficiencies in May – three months after the virus began to spread quickly on British soil.
As the first wave of the British outbreak appears to be coming to an end – 119 deaths are announced daily, more than 900 on average at the height of the crisis – the Department of Health has praised its ‘impressive milestone’.
It said the government provided 341 million face masks, 313 million aprons, four million gowns, and 1.1 billion gloves to frontline workers.
The Department of Health has confirmed that the gloves count individually rather than in pairs, as they come in boxes of 200 individual items. Earlier in the year, she was accused of doing this to increase the number of items delivered.
Personal protective equipment is now mandatory for doctors and nurses to prevent the coronavirus from spreading in operations and hospitals (Pictured: a nurse in a Grimsby clinic wears personal protective equipment while drawing blood from a patient)
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said today: “Coronavirus has set unprecedented demands on personal protective equipment supply chains worldwide.
“To address this, we posed a national challenge calling on companies to channel their productive power into producing much needed personal protective equipment and bring in Lord Deighton who really took care of his country again.
“Two billion items of personal protective equipment have now been delivered to the front line, and another 28 billion items are coming, which will protect first-line workers well into the future.
“Thanks to the tremendous efforts of British industry, the NHS and departmental teams, our diplomatic teams abroad and the armed forces, we have now reached this impressive milestone.”
GOVERNMENT ON FIRE FOR COUNTING INDIVIDUAL GLOVES IN PPE ANNOUNCEMENT
The government’s shambolic approach to the PPE crisis was uncovered in April when a documentary alleged that ministers counted each glove individually rather than in pairs to take pride in providing one billion pieces of protective equipment to NHS personnel.
A BBC Panorama investigation found that number 10 had not purchased enough masks, coats, visors, and smears, despite the fact that a large emergency supply was created in 2009 for use during a pandemic.
Officials failed to purchase enough PPE and then ignored a warning from their own advisers last June that they would need more, it was alleged.
The investigation also charged ministers with counting 547 million individual gloves, rather than 273.5 million pairs, to manipulate PPE numbers. They also included cleaning items in their ‘one billion’ figure.
Secretary of Security Victoria Atkins did not deny the allegations about BBC Breakfast this morning, saying she would not be “carried away to the details of these figures.”
It came as a shocking poll by the Royal College of Physicians that a quarter of the doctors had to reuse the protective kit that only had to be worn once.
The college leader said the investigation uncovered “a horrible state of affairs.”
The protective clothing should only be worn once, as washing it at temperatures high enough to kill the coronavirus reduces their effectiveness.
Officials said they ordered nearly 28 billion items from UK suppliers, with up to 20 percent of all deliveries made in Britain.
They said the supply chain was only built to house 226 NHS trusts, but now supplied PPE to 58,000 different locations.
Hospital and care home workers asked for better PPE facilities during the outbreak, and dozens of them died even after catching Covid-19 at work.
The British Medical Association, just two weeks ago on June 11, said it would “continue to pressure the government” because staff were still reporting shortages.
It advised its members that they cannot be forced to do risky work if hospitals do not provide them with adequate protective equipment.
A statement on the BMA website said, “There are limits to the risks you can expose yourself to.
“You are not obliged to provide high-risk services without proper safety and protection. You can refuse to treat patients if your PPE is insufficient, you are at high infection risk and there is no other way to provide the care. ‘
A desperate request from a nurse who worked in Doncaster in April hit a chord when a doctor in her hospital, Dr. Medhat Atalla, 62, died of coronavirus.
The unnamed nurse said in a Facebook post, ‘Please, please, if anyone knows companies that can save us some personal protective equipment, please beg them to help.
“We are all extremely concerned about the lack of equipment we need to protect ourselves, our families, colleagues and patients.”
Nursing home bosses are also furious about a lack of personal protective equipment for their staff. More than 14,000 residents have since died of Covid-19, and the homes are considered hotspots for the disease.
In April, insiders said they only received ‘meager’ and ‘haphazard’ deliveries of essential items such as masks, gloves and aprons, which are mandatory for all health professionals.
The bosses were still furious in May when they said they continued to struggle to get enough protective equipment for their staff.
The Unison union revealed early last month that it had disclosed nearly 3,600 PPE deficiency reports from its members.
Colin Angel, policy director for the UK Homecare Association (UKHCA), said purchasing equipment for workers is a major concern for health care providers.
He told BBC Breakfast on May 5: “I think every home care provider in the country is really struggling to get a certain supply of personal protective equipment, and has enough to trust that they can continue to provide care services, sometimes even days, if not just a few weeks.
“And it’s a real stress. I have a provider who told me that he spent 90 percent of his time calling and delivering personal protective equipment.
“That means he’s looking for personal protective equipment instead of doing the rest of his shift.
“That is a huge problem, and the stress it is causing, both for caregivers and their primary care workers, is very high.”