A BBC documentary last night claimed ministers counted every glove individually instead of in pairs to boast of delivering one billion bits of PPE to NHS staff frontline – as yet another minister suffers a shambolic round of interviews today.
The Panorama investigation said No10 had failed to procure enough protective equipment, such as masks, gowns and visors.
It also accused ministers of counting 547million individual gloves, instead of 273.5million pairs, to fiddle PPE numbers.
Good Morning Britain presenter Piers Morgan called the PPE scandal unveiled by Panorama a ‘national disgrace’ and accused Safeguarding minister Victoria Atkins of laughing when he was interviewing her.
Good Morning Britain presenter Piers Morgan called the PPE scandal unveiled by Panorama a ‘national disgrace’ and accused Safeguarding minister Victoria Atkins of laughing
Morgan asked Ms Atkins why the UK had downgraded Covid-19 from HCID, which is the high consequence infectious category.
The minister then appeared to smirk and said: ‘I am not a scientist Piers.’
He interjected: ‘Well you can laugh. I don’t know why you all keeping laughing when I talk about this. It’s not funny is it? Look you just laughed again.’
Ms Atkins said: ‘Piers, no its not and I know you accused another colleague of mine laughing and I was not laughing.’
Morgan shot back: ‘These are not trivial matters minister let me explain why. By every criteria HCID fits the bill. It’s the biggest public health crisis this country has faced in 100 years.’
He then accused the minister of downgrading the virus so they didn’t have a legal obligation to give health workers ‘the right amount of PPE kit.’
A shocking poll by the Royal College of Physicians found that a quarter of doctors are having to re-use protective kit meant to be worn just once (file photo)
He added that Ms Atkins appeared to know ‘nothing’ about why the decision was taken to downgrade Covid-19.
Ms Atkins responded that she was on the programme to talk about the domestic abuse bill, and that the government is ‘following the scientific advice.’
She later appeared on BBC Breakfast and did not deny the claims on BBC Breakfast this morning, and said she would not be ‘drawn into the detail of these figures’.
She told BBC Breakfast that she had a box of gloves and they were not badged up as being in pairs, although said she was ‘not going to be drawn into the detail of these figures’.
But Ms Atkins said: ‘We have been very transparent about figures throughout and we have got to keep with transparency because that is how we keep people’s trust.’
‘I’m very, very sorry to hear of that report.’
The failure to provide enough PPE to hospitals and care homes has been one of the biggest issues in the pandemic
It comes as a shocking poll by the Royal College of Physicians yesterday found that a quarter of doctors are having to re-use protective kit meant to be worn just once.
Health expert says government acted ‘too little too late’ on PPE provision
Appearing on Good Morning Britain this morning to discuss the startling revelations from Panorama’s programme last night, Professor John Ashton slammed the government for its inaction.
He said: ‘The story has become clearer at this point we know the government acted too little too late at each stage and even before this whole thing started at the end of January we weren’t prepared.
‘We know that back in 2009 with the swine flu we did pretty well actually, Dame Deidre Hines report showed that.
‘So between 2009 and today we have let it go, and the planning documents have not been kept up to date, the stockpiles clearly haven’t been kept as they should have been
‘And then there was this operation sigma in 2016, the report has never seen the light of day, and the findings have never been acted on so we were in bad shape even before.
In my view the Prime Minister failed to chair cobra at the beginning of February when he would have been in a position to see where we were and get started on catching up with the PPE and the testing which we have suffered from ever since.’
The college’s leader said the survey revealed a ‘terrible state of affairs’ and – in a further blow to the Government – an investigation found that officials failed to buy enough gowns when setting up an emergency stockpile in 2009. Ministers are also accused of ignoring a warning last June that they would need to purchase more.
The protective clothes should be worn only once because washing them at temperatures high enough to kill coronavirus weakens their effectiveness.
The BBC Panorama investigation, which was screened last night and is available on iPlayer, found the Government failed to stockpile enough gowns, visors and swabs needed for testing.
Ministers apparently then ignored a warning last summer from experts on the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group that they should buy additional gowns.
The shortages are affecting care homes as well. James Bullion, of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, told the BBC’s World at One: ‘It’s been promised for some weeks and not arrived.’
Chris Hopson of NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts, said: ‘It will be important – when the time comes for a public inquiry – to examine why the pandemic stockpile was not configured for an epidemic like the one we face today.’
A Royal College’s survey – completed by 2,129 members – also highlighted concerns that protective equipment was poorly fitting.
Nearly a third – 31 per cent – said they had not had their facemasks ‘fit tested’ to ensure they provided maximum protection.
The number of new cases continued to rise in the latest data, but the rate has slowed significantly
Just 69 per cent said they were always able to access the vital long-sleeved gowns. The figure for goggles was even lower at 50 per cent.
Overall 27 per cent said they could not get the equipment they needed, which was up from 22 per cent when the college carried out the same survey three weeks ago.
Some 27 per cent of doctors were re-using their personal protective equipment or had done so.
Its president, Professor Andrew Goddard, said: ‘Many personal protective equipment items are designed for single use and should only be re-used in extreme circumstances.
‘That so many people are having to re-use PPE shows how desperate the shortages are.
‘This is a truly terrible state of affairs. As a bare minimum we expect our health service to provide the equipment we need to protect ourselves and our patients.’