NHS staff say they are at risk because of equipment shortages

Boris Johnson focused on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at his first cabinet coronavirus meeting since returning to work, Downing Street said.

The government has been defending its record on PPE supplies for health workers, following a BBC investigation.

The BBC’s Panorama found the government failed to buy crucial protective equipment to cope with a pandemic.

Ministers say stockpiles had been designed for a flu pandemic, on scientific advice.

Covid-19 is a different disease with a higher hospitalisation rate, the government has said.

NHS staff say they are being put at risk because of the shortage of PPE.

The Panorama investigation found there were no gowns, visors, swabs or body bags in the government’s pandemic stockpile when Covid-19 reached the UK, and that the government ignored a warning from its own advisers to buy missing equipment.

Gowns are currently one of the items in shortest supply in the UK and they are now difficult to source because of the global shortage of PPE.

The expert committee that advises the government on pandemics, the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), recommended the purchase of gowns last June.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “We have been working to secure gowns and other PPE from across the globe – and domestically – for a number of months.

“The pandemic influenza preparatory programme was designed to prepare for flu outbreaks and the decision was based on advice from Nervtag – gowns are a recent recommendation from Nervtag and would be procured for future preparations.”