Senior Labour minister says ‘no surprise’ NHS struggled with coronavirus after decade of Tory health cuts

PUBLISHED: 16:14 07 May 2020 | UPDATED: 16:14 07 May 2020

Prime minister Boris Johnson, former chancellor Sajid Javid and home secretary Priti Patel. Photograph: House of Commons/PA.

Prime minister Boris Johnson, former chancellor Sajid Javid and home secretary Priti Patel. Photograph: House of Commons/PA.

PA Wire/PA Images

Shadow trade minister Bill Esterson has said it was ‘no surprise’ the NHS was unprepared for the coronavirus epidemic, claiming a decade of Tory cuts had left the public sector “run down”.

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Appearing on TalkRADIO, shadow trade minister Esterson said that shrinking public sector budgets had undermined the NHS’s ability to cope with coronavirus patients.

He also claimed the government’s procurement process was “counterproductive” and its response to the virus “not in the right place”.

He said: “When you run down the public sector for the last 10 years, don’t be surprised there aren’t people in posts to do these things properly”.

He claims many healthcare workers’ lives might have been spared had the government been able to dispatch Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to frontline staff quicker.

“So how many of them could have been saved had we got this thing right?” he asked, adding “I don’t think for one minute that Boris Johnson or Matt Hancock don’t care, I think they do but there’s a mind set here about how you run things that just isn’t in the right place.

MORE: NHS chief slams ministers for ‘making promises when you can’t be sure you can keep them’.

“Those health care workers, those poor people who have given their lives to save other; I mean think of them and their grieving loved ones.”

The government’s PPE procurement scheme has been plagued with problems. On Thursday, a recent shipment of PPE from Turkey turned out to be unfit for use after failing UK safety standards.

The distribution bottleneck has left many frontline care workers without kit to treat Covid-19 patients.

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