Government failings left nurses without PPE ‘risking their own and their families lives’, find MPs

Nurses and other health and social care workers were left with gowns made from bin bags and face masks years past their use by date. 

Ian Snug
10 February 2021
PPE

Social care organisations recieved just 10% of the protective equipment it needed.

Significant failings by the Government frontline health and social care works without personal protective equipment (PPE) putting their own lives at risk, MPs have concluded.

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The House of Commons’ Public Accounts Committee (PAC) published a damming report today concluding that frontline health and social care workers have been needlessly put at risk due to poor pandemic planning and questionable deals.

The Committee highlighted the numerous reports of inadequate, expired or substandard items PPE being provided to frontline workers – this includes gowns made from bin bags and face masks years past their use by date. 

Between March 2020 and July 2020, NHS trusts were provided with 1.9 billion items of PPE, which is equivalent to 80% of their estimated need. In stark contrast, the adult social care sector was provided with 331 million items of PPE, which equivalent to 10% of its estimated need.

The group of cross-party group of MPs have heavily criticised the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) who remain adamant that PPE was always availible to those who needed it.

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Left without adequate supplies.

The Government’s failure to be transparent about its buying decisions in the pandemic  – publish contracts in a timely manner, maintain proper records of key decisions – has “left it open to accusations of poor value for money, conflicts of interest and preferential treatment of some suppliers”, say the group.

Labour Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Committee, said: “Government had permission to procure equipment at pace and without tendering under the law, but acting fast did not give it license to rip up record keeping on decisions. It did not publish contracts in time and kept poor records of why some companies won multi-million pound contracts.

“The cost of emergency procurement – £billions higher than the equivalent a year before – highlights how both its pandemic plan and supply of essential equipment were inadequate.

“Frontline workers were left without adequate supplies, risking their own and their families’ lives to provide treatment and care. We’re at a dangerous new phase of the pandemic, in our third national lockdown with no defined end in sight. The government needs to acknowledge the errors and be better prepared.”

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Nurses are still being denied PPE.

At least 850 health and social care workers are now known to have died after testing positive for the virus. 

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has said that the issues are still ongoing and has called for greater protection for staff.

Dame Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the RCN, said; “Nursing staff working hospitals, community and care homes are still being denied adequate PPE. Trusts and employers should not be forced into setting their own rules to protect their staff because the government guidance is unclear.

“There is also an urgent need to collect more information about the impact on all nursing staff, particularly those from a BAME background who we know were put at greater risk, to make sure they are better protected in the future.

“The government must now ensure all nursing staff, wherever they work, have the highest level of protection so they never again are forced to work while putting themselves at risk.”

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