The government has faced criticism for weeks over the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) available to NHS staff.
Hospitals across the country are washing and reusing single-use gowns as supplies reach critically low levels, while it has also been reported that nurses have resorted to wearing bin bags in the absence of adequate equipment.
Downing Street originally said that it only failed to join the EU scheme because of an email miscommunication, but it was revealed at the end of March that British officials in Brussels had attended four meetings where bulk-buying was discussed, according to EU minutes reported by The Guardian. At the time, the government was accused of choosing “Brexit over breathing” in choosing not to participate in the ventilator, but Downing Street stressed that it was down to communication mixup, not politics.
It is now reported that the UK missed three opportunities to buy protective equipment – which appears to contradict No 10’s claim that the confusion was down to a missed email.
Coffey’s remarks come as a survey by the Doctors Association UK found that only 52 per cent of clinicians carrying out high-risk procedures have the right full sleeve gowns. Nurses have been assured that they can refuse to treat patients if they don’t have the right protective equipment, but this is a terrible position to put health staff in.
The news that the government missed three chances to bulk buy PPE with the EU comes as polling reveals that three quarters of the public favour working with the EU to get vital equipment.