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Boris Johnson appoints PPE 'tsar' amid growing concerns over shortages for frontline NHS staff

NHS staff have reported shortages of PPE

4 min read

Boris Johnson has appointed a PPE 'tsar' to boost manufacturing of protective equipment needed to protect NHS staff amid growing concerns supplies in hospitals are running low.

Former London Olympics chief executive Paul Deigthon has been asked to spearhead the UK's efforts to boost its supply of protective equipment after opposition parties put further pressure on ministers to explain shortages in the NHS.

According to the Sunday Telegraph, the order came directly from the Prime Minister in one of his first officials acts since leaving hospital after being treated for coronavirus.

The paper said Mr Johnson asked his deputy, the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, to make the appointment during a series of phone calls from Chequers where he is continuing his recovery from Covid-19.

It comes as 84 tonnes of PPE, including 400,000 surgical gowns, were imported from Turkey over the weekend, but ministers conceded the short-term boost would not meet the "unprecedented demand" in the health service.

Meanwhile, a new poll by ORB found the public's approval of the Government's handling of the crisis had fallen from 68% to 59% over the past week as conerns continued to mount over availability of the equipment.

Tory peer Lord Deighton, who also served as a Treasury minister in David Cameron's government, will be tasked with boosting the UK's own manufacturing effort, including streamlining procurement to ensure adequate supplies are made available to hospitals and care workers.


Ministers have also issued a "call to arms" to UK firms to prioritise production of PPE, including face masks and gowns, after some hospitals reported their supplies were due to run out over the weekend.

Announcing the appointment, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "Our response to this global pandemic demands a national effort.

"Manufacturers big and small are already responding to the challenge but we must go further and faster. I am determined to do everything I can to get more protective equipment to the NHS staff who are fighting this virus on the frontline.

"Just as Lord Beaverbrook spearheded the wartime efforts on on aircraft production, the appointment of Lord Deighton will bring renewed drive and focus to coordinate this unprecedented peacetime challenge."

He added: "Lord Deighton led the delivery of the Olympics. Now he will lead a singular and relentless focus on PPE as the country's top manufacturing priority, with the full weight of the government behind him."

Responding to his appointment, Lord Deighton, said: "Countries around the world face unprecedented demand for personal protective equipment and this necessitates an equally unprecedented domestic manufacturing response.

"I look forward to bring together new partners in the pursuit of this single goal: to get our dedicated frontline workers the essential equipment they need.

"This effort calls for exceptional teamwork and I am confident that we, together, will rise to this challenge."


It comes after Shadow cabinet office minister Rachel Reeves wrote to Michael Gove saying there was a "desperate need for more to be done, and faster, to keep frontline workers safe".

In a letter to her counterpart, Ms Reeves demanded to know how many offers the government have recieved from UK manfacturers to make the equipment and how many have been accepted.

"Along with the rest of the country, I have been deeply affected by stories of the courage of staff in our hospitals and in social care, who have accepted huge personal risk in order to care for our loved ones at this extremely difficult time," she wrote.

"Frontline doctors, nurses and social care workers have already made enormous sacrifices.

"I was therefore shocked to see reports that NHS staff are now being asked to treat coronavirus patients without full-length gowns.

"This shows the severity of the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) shortage in our hospitals, despite the government’s efforts, and shows the desperate need for more to be done, and faster, to keep frontline workers safe."

She added: "The Health Secretary has on several occasions in recent weeks suggested that PPE was being used inappropriately by health and care workers and this was the cause of shortages.

"Many workers within these sectors have been dismayed at what they feel is an attempt by to apportion blame for PPE shortages onto the front line workers.

"For the sake of morale, I would strongly urge the government to not repeat this suggestion and certainly when there is no evidence that this is a notable factor."

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