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Coronavirus: Matt Hancock says he would re-use PPE if clinical guidance said so as he defends Government strategy

Health Secretary Matt Hancock was appearing on LBC radio.

3 min read

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said he would be personally willing to wear re-used protective equipment, as he defended government efforts to get vital gear to the coronavirus frontline.

The Health Secretary told LBC he would “of course” be willing to don PPE that had been used before if doing so had been “clinically advised”.

The Government has been under intense pressure in recent weeks amid widespread reports that key items of protective equipment meant to shield staff from the virus are in low supply.

The latest government guidance - issued by the Health and Safety Executive last week - said where there are “acute shortages of PPE, and where it is safe to do so”, health workers should be able to re-use protective equipment.

It said that while some PPE in the NHS had been designated for single use, “some compromise is needed to optimise the supply of PPE in times of extreme shortages”.

Pressed by LBC’s Nick Ferrari on whether he would wear kit that had been previously used, Mr Hancock said: “If that is what is clinically advised then yes of course."


“The guidelines do say that in some cases PPE can safely be resued and that’s a good thing because PPE is in global short supply" - Health Secretary Matt Hancock

He added: “Sometimes what we’ve managed to do during this crisis is improve ways that kit like that can be sterilised and then safely re-used. 

“And that’s work that’s been ongoing. It’s all about keeping people safe, making sure that we can get the PPE, but also if it is safe to sterilise and re-use then that’s okay.”

The Health Secretary said he continued to be “guided by the clinical evidence” on PPE use, and defended recent government action to coordinate the supply of vital gear.

And he said the Government’s newly-appointed PPE tsar, Lord Deighton, who helped run the 2012 London Olympics, was already “doing a fantastic job at really getting that PPE supply chain in place”.

Mr Hancock added: “The guidelines do say that in some cases PPE can safely be re-used and that’s a good thing because PPE is in global short supply. 

“But we’ve got a huge program underway to make the equipment here, to buy it from abroad and then to distribute it right across the NHS and the social care system and to others who need it. We’ve so far distributed a billion items.”

The Health Secretary also disputed the findings of a poll by the Royal College of Physicians, which found that more than a quarter (27%) of medical doctors surveyed said they could not get the kit they needed to stay safe while treating coronavirus patients.

That follows similar warnings from the Doctors’ Association and union the British Medical Association.

But Mr Hancock told LBC: “I’ve seen the particular survey that you mentioned. It’s not actually a representative sample.

"But it doesn’t take away from the fact, that you know, there’s a huge effort, a very important effort underway to get people the protective equipment they need.”

The Times reported on Tuesday that PPE supplies had dominated Mr Johnson’s first Covid-19 meeting after returning to the job following his own battle with the illness.

One adviser told the paper: “He was asking very detailed questions.”

Meanwhile Labour leader Sir Keir said the country must “continue to fight for those on the frontline to protect their lives” ahead of a minute’s silence to remember key workers who have died in the pandemic.

“Nobody should put their lives at risk because they haven't got the right protective equipment,” he said.

“We owe it to them to make sure they've got the right equipment, in the right place, at the right time and we will continue to press on that.

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