Matt Hancock has been criticised for a “disgustingly disrespectful” claim that there was never a national shortage of personal protective equipment during the pandemic.
Doctors and MPs condemned the UK health secretary as “deeply insulting” on Tuesday after he insisted that his team had delivered protective equipment for frontline NHS staff in the “teeth of a pandemic”.
Doctors groups said they had helped deliver 45,000 masks to hospitals that lacked adequate supply at the start of the crisis and that the families of healthcare workers who lost their lives to Covid had raised concerns about the protection they received.
Amid the first wave of coronavirus, NHS staff were photographed with poorly fitting PPE, with some having to make gowns themselves from bin bags.
Hancock said that while there were “individual challenges in access to PPE”, they “never had a national shortage, because of my team”.
He was addressing a high court ruling over failings in publishing details of coronavirus-related contracts. He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “This has all been looked into in great detail. It’s only because of the transparency that I support that we can ask questions about these contracts.
“And what’s more, it’s easy to ask these questions, but what is hard is to deliver PPE in the teeth of a pandemic.”
Dolin Bhagawati, from the medical campaign group Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK), said Hancock’s comment that the NHS did not face a national shortage of PPE during the first wave of the pandemic “is disgustingly disrespectful to the memory of frontline colleagues who died from Covid-19 while raising concerns about inadequate PPE”.
He said frontline staff did not imagine having to provide their own makeshift protective equipment, “raising our concerns for weeks only for them to be ignored”.
DAUK delivered 45,000 masks to hospitals that lacked adequate supply. “We are not imagining mourning the colleagues that treated Covid-19 patients with inadequate PPE,” Bhagawati said.
He added: “This callous disregard for the experience of shell-shocked NHS staff in order to save political face is beneath contemptible.”
Read the full article here: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/feb/23/hancock-criticised-for-claim-there-was-no-national-covid-ppe-shortage