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

PUBLISHED: 10:43 07 May 2020 | UPDATED: 10:58 07 May 2020

NHS Confederation chief executive Niall Dickson (left) and communities secretary Robert Jenrick (right)

NHS Confederation chief executive Niall Dickson (left) and communities secretary Robert Jenrick (right)

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An NHS chief has said frontline healthcare workers are ‘losing confidence’ in the fight against the Covid-19 after a shipment of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from Turkey turned out to be faulty,

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NHS Confederation chief executive Niall Dickson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the arrival of 400,000 faulty gowns from Turkey had “undermined” NHS staff confidence in its the fight against the coronavirus and the government, criticising Whitehall for ‘over promising’.

“It does show the absolute danger of making promises when you can’t be sure you can keep them, especially in this area,” Dickson told listeners.

“We know the number of gowns or masks or aprons or the type or the quality of equipment is not always what it says in the box and we have warned that setting targets that are not met or saying it is all going fine, when on the front line it manifestly in places is not going fine, undermines confidence.

“And it undermines confidence not just in our members and local leaders but among frontline staff. So I think the message is it is better to under promise and over deliver than the other way around.”

The chief executive of the body which represents NHS service providers acknowledged that PPE supply had gotten “a lot better” but said cases still existed where hospitals and care homes only had “a day or two days’ supply”.

He said: “There is still an element of hand to mouth which is ‘we’ve got a day or two days’ supply of x or y and we’re relying on the next delivery’. So there’s still that element of it, which of course causes anxiety.”

He said care homes and GPs have been most disadvantaged: “I think that there are still problems in the community and we do know that care homes, family doctors, community services, they have been sort of second order I think, or certainly perceive that they are second order.”

The shipment from Turkey has been impounded in a warehouse near Heathrow airport where it has been inspected and found to fail UK safety standards.

The kit was flown in from Turkey last month following issues over the government’s communication with Turkish authorities and supplier capacity.

Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis admitted the gowns turned out to “not be of the quality that we feel is good enough for our frontline staff”.

Lewis has refused to say how much the government paid for the items, saying: “I think it is reassuring that our experts are very focused on ensuring the best quality of equipment.”

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