EU scheme providing £1.3bn worth of PPE was described as ‘inadequate’ by government

PUBLISHED: 16:35 14 April 2020 | UPDATED: 13:58 23 April 2020

Health Secretary Matt Hancock speaking during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19). Picture: PA Wire / PA Images

Health Secretary Matt Hancock speaking during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19). Picture: PA Wire / PA Images

PA Wire/PA Images

The UK government has described the EU’s bulk-buying scheme for personal protective equipment (PPE) as ‘inadequate’, despite it delivering £1.3 billion of equipment to 25 EU countries.

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Work and pensions secretary Thérèse Coffey told LBC’s Nick Ferrari that the country was in a “better state now” in regard to PPE than had it joined the programme.

The minster confirmed the government could have joined the EU’s bulk-buy personal protective equipment scheme on three separate occasions but chose not to.

When asked to explain the government’s logic for attending a meeting with its EU counterparts on March 19 concerning the procurement of PPE, despite dismissing the scheme andrefusing to join a gathering two weeks earlier, Coffey said: “The government had assessed that it would not have made any difference joining those schemes.

“We weren’t part of the first meeting. We were part of the second meeting. That does not change the basis for our assessment. It would not have made any difference to our procurement of PPE.”

This comes as the medical body, Doctors Association UK, claimed that only 52% of clinicians carrying out high risk procedures had the right full sleeve gowns. The Royal College of Nursing has now urged nurses to refuse treating patients with the virus if they do not have the correct protective equipment.

Meanwhile, doctors and nurses in 25 EU countries will receive €1.5bn (£1.3bn) worth of PPE within the next two weeks.

Coffey said the government did not have a procurement issue, stressing the country had more than 700 million pieces of PPE ready to go. She also confirmed that the armed forces were now being called in to delivery the essential kit to hospitals and care homes across the UK.

The EU began its procurement process on 28 February when it established the Joint Procurement Agreement steering committee. It was not until 15 March that the Johnson administration realised it had not been invited to partake in a single meeting. It was later discovered that invitations were being sent to a defunct email address, The Guardian reports.

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