Health minister Matt Hancock admitted the NHS was unprepared for the coronavirus outbreak after a tense exchange with a national radio host.
Nick Ferrari confronted the Tory minister who insisted his department took ‘appropriate action’ following warnings in a 2016 pandemic report that the country’s health service lacked Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
Operation Cygnus was a simulated exercise that tested the NHS’ capacity to deal with a pandemic. The findings have not been published however reports suggest the government was aware of a shortfall in PPE.
Ferrari amplified a caller’s concern that the government failed to ‘follow the science’ on findings before calling for the report to be released.
Ferrari said: ‘Did it not show there were holes and that we needed more kit and it wasn’t acted upon?’
A fumbling Hancock said the test run was carried out before his time as health minister, adding: ‘The preparations we had in this country were amongst one of the most extensive in the world but of course you can’t prepare for a virus that is itself new.’
A quick Ferrari replied: ‘If it was so good then why were there instances where NHS workers had to wear bin bags?’
‘Well, the answer to that is that right at the start we had enormous stockpiles of PPE and the needed to get the PPE to the frontline is a massive logistical effort,’ Hancock said.
‘Yes, but that is not preparedness, is it health secretary?’, Ferrari rebutted.
‘Of course not,’ the Tory minister conceded.
In a Panorama special, the BBC uncovered that 21 million items of FFP3 respirator masks went missing from government stockpiles. It also emerged the government had been advised of low PPE stockpiles as far back as 2009 but only began mass orderinng in March 2020, three months after the first confirmed Covid-19 case in the UK.
Data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that there were more than 2,000 death in care homes across England and Wales in the week ending April 17, doubling last week’s figure.