Coronavirus: Delivery of protective kit for NHS delayed

Doctors in Liverpool wearing PPE Image copyright EPA

A personal protective equipment (PPE) delivery from Turkey to the UK has been delayed, the government has said.

Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick said on Saturday equipment including 400,000 gowns would arrive on Sunday, and there was “short supply” in some areas.

A government spokesman confirmed the delay on Sunday, saying they were working “to ensure the shipment is delivered as soon as possible”.

A source told the BBC they hoped it would arrive in the coming days.

The pledge to take delivery of more protective kit came after warnings that some hospitals’ intensive care units could run out of gowns this weekend.

Public Health England changed its advice on Friday to allow the NHS to re-use gowns if stock was running low, saying “some compromise” was needed “in times of extreme shortages”.

It asked staff to reuse “(washable) surgical gowns or coveralls or similar suitable clothing (for example, long-sleeved laboratory coat, long-sleeved patient gown or industrial coverall) with a disposable plastic apron for AGPs (aerosol-generating procedures) and high-risk settings with forearm washing once gown or coverall is removed”.

The guidance also said hospitals could reserve the gowns for surgical operations and procedures which were likely to transmit respiratory pathogens.

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Media captionMr Jenrick announced on Saturday that 400,000 gowns were due to arrive from Turkey on Sunday

NHS England’s medical director Prof Stephen Powis said for the guidance on the use of protective equipment to be properly followed, it was “absolutely critical above everything else that we have the supplies of PPE going out to the front line”.

But the Royal College of Nursing said the guidance was developed without a full consultation and the British Medical Association (BMA) – which represents doctors – said any change must be driven by science, not availability.

The delay to the consignment is a real worry, both in the short and long-term.

It is clear the pandemic stocks we have been largely relying on to date are running out, at least in terms of gowns and visors.

It has left us depending on international supply – certainly for gowns – as we do not seem to be able to manufacture them ourselves.

Given the international demand for them, this threatens to be an on-going issue that could cause problems for months to come.

Staff are understandably worried – they are putting their lives at risk.

Ministers and their officials are clearly working hard to do what they can.

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