Business secretary latest minister to avoid an apology to NHS staff for lack of PPE

Alok Sharma refuses to apologise for the government's failure to deliver PPE during the coronavirus

Alok Sharma refuses to apologise for the government's failure to deliver PPE during the coronavirus outbreak. Photograph: Sky News. - Credit: Archant

Business secretary Alok Sharma has become the latest minister not to directly apologise for the government's failure to get NHS workers the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need.

Pressed on Sky News, the business secretary said: 'It is our job to make sure we get that health care equipment, that PPE, out to them.

'Right now, your viewers will be asking does the government have a plan to get this PPE out to the front line and the answer is, yes we do have a plan.

'We are putting that in place, with millions of pieces of PPE kit going out to the front line. Of course, we need to be doing even more.'

Asked to apologise he said that he was 'sorry for the loss of any life during this pandemic'.


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Sharma, asked about the Royal College of Nursing advising members to refuse to treat patients if they do not have adequate personal protective equipment to use, said health workers should not be put in such a position.

He said: 'It is absolutely right that no medical professional should be placed in a position where they have to make that choice.

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'That for me is self-evident. That is why we are making sure we get the equipment to the front line.'

The cabinet minister said PPE demand was well beyond anything like what it would be outside of a pandemic and that there was a 'unified effort' to deliver more supplies.


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He added: 'In a normal circumstance, you would have us providing PPE to about 233 hospital trusts across the country.

'We are now talking about supplying 58,000 NHS and social care settings.

'That is a huge increase and on top of that, there is huge global demand for PPE and that does put a squeeze on supply.'

The minister also would not say if it was right for the government to allow the Cheltenham horse racing festival to go ahead when the daily coronavirus-related death rate in Italy had reached 200 people.

He said: 'We have followed the scientific and medical advice and we continue to do that.

'The Scientific Advisory Group (Sage) which advises the government is meeting next week and they will look at the evidence that is in place and, of course, we need to wait until we are past the peak and, as the chief medical officer has said, we don't know when that will be.'

Asked whether he thought the expert advice had been wrong not to call for a lockdown earlier, Sharma said: 'As the situation has evolved, obviously we have looked to see what the advice is and we have acted on it.

'I am not a scientific and medical expert and that's why we have advisers to give us that advice, that is why we have Sage, and that is why we follow what it is they are telling us to do.'

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