The government has announced ‘a very large consignment’ of personal protective equipment (PPE) – including 400,000 gowns – is due to arrive in the UK from Turkey on Sunday.
Communities secretary Robert Jenrick announced the consignment of 84 tonnes of PPE at a Downing Street briefing on Saturday afternoon.
He said this shipment included 400,000 gowns – the supply of which NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts, said was now ‘critical’.
He said: ‘Today I can report that a very large consignment of PPE is due to arrive in the UK tomorrow from Turkey, which amounts to 84 tonnes of PPE and will include for example, 400,000 gowns – so a very significant additional shipment.
‘But demand is also very high. We are working with British manufacturers to ensure that they can make a contribution, and you’ve heard of some of the more prominent ones like Burberry and Barbour but there are many SMEs as well being involved in that, and my department is also involved in trying to ensure that the supplies that we have get out, not just to the NHS, critical though that is, but also to social care, often to smaller establishments like care homes, all across the country.
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‘There’s over 50,000 healthcare settings like that in the country, and we’re using local resilience forums, backed by almost 200 military planners to do the logistical task of taking the stocks that we do have, and getting them to the front line, but I completely accept that this is extremely challenging.’
However the delivery of gowns is only enough to last the NHS for three days, with Jenrick telling reporters: ‘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.’
A more ‘sustainable’ level of PPE is not expected for another six weeks.
The delivery from Turkey follows offers of ventilators for the UK from a number of other countries including Germany and Sweden.
Professor Stephen Powis, the national medical director of NHS England, told the briefing that it was ‘absolutely critical above everything else’ that the supplies from Turkey were delivered to the front line so the guidance on on wearing gowns could be followed.
‘I know government is working incredibly hard to get those procurements in as you have heard,’ he said.
‘But what I hear from my clinical colleagues is that what they need is PPE delivered to the front line to follow the guidance that was agreed with them two weeks ago.’