Shipment of vital PPE from Turkey including 400,000 gowns delayed
19 April 2020, 15:21
A vital delivery of 84 tonnes of personal protective equipment (PPE) for front-line NHS workers has been delayed.
The shipment, which includes 400,000 surgical gowns, was due to arrive in the UK from Turkey on Sunday afternoon.
The reason for the delay is not yet known.
A Government spokeswoman said: "We are continuing to work to ensure the shipment is delivered as soon as possible."
Communities secretary Robert Jenrick set out details of the consignment at the daily Downing Street press conference on Saturday, describing it as a "very significant additional shipment".
He said: "Supply in some areas, particularly gowns and certain types of masks and aprons, is in short supply at the moment and that must be an extremely anxious time for people working on the front line.
"But they should be assured that we are doing everything we can to correct this issue and to get them the equipment that they need."
Health bosses said the shipment would provide only enough PPE to last "a few days".
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said it "may be enough to avert an absolute crisis over this weekend" but "it doesn't solve the longer term problem".
He said: "The question really is how guaranteed are we that we will have similar shipments over the next few weeks and then will there be from May onwards a really guaranteed regular supply so we take away the levels of fear and anxiety which are existing in hospitals, but also crucially, in GP services and communities and social care as well?"
It comes after the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA) said officials responsible for the UK's "disgraceful" lack of adequate personal protective equipment need to be held "fully accountable for their abject failure" to protect front-line health staff.
HCSA president Claudia Paoloni said: "Our NHS workers are going above and beyond on a daily basis to heal.
"They should expect at the very least adequate protection to keep them fit and well to engage in this fight.
"Yet instead they are being asked to sacrifice themselves due to the failings of others."
The Government has been under fire for weeks over the distribution of PPE, with some front-line staff warning they have to work in situations where they feel unsafe.
At least 50 NHS workers have now died after contracting coronavirus.
New guidance from Public Health England says long-sleeved disposable fluid-repellent gowns should be worn when treating Covid-19 patients.
If the gowns are unavailable, clinical staff have been advised by the Department of Health to wear "disposable, non-fluid repellent gowns or coveralls" or "washable surgical gowns", with aprons, and to wash their forearms afterwards.
It also says staff should consider reusing PPE when necessary if supplies are low.
A total of 16,060 patients have now died in hospital after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK