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Number 10 shoots down claim coronavirus PPE is being diverted from Scotland as Nicola Sturgeon demands investigation

3 min read

Downing Street has rejected claims that the Government is telling manufacturers of personal protective equipment to prioritise England over Scotland as the UK fights the coronavirus.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Tuesday ordered an investigation into reports that PPE was being diverted to England - just hours after Scotland’s national clinical director branded the reports “rubbish”.

The claims come after one manufacturer of protective equipment, based in Wiltshire, said it would not supply Scotland or Wales under a contract it holds with Public Health England.

Donald Macaskill, chief executive of care home organisation Scottish Care, meanwhile told The Times that at least one English PPE firm had told him they did not have stock to supply Scotland.

“There is a major shortage of PPE so our providers aren’t able to import in the way in which they used to,” he said. 

Scotland’s national clinical director Jason Leitch on Tuesday morning told the BBC that claims English companies were prioritising institutions South of the Border were “rubbish”.

He said: “So the companies and our colleagues at NHS England yesterday when we spoke to them said it wasn’t true.”

But, speaking at her daily press conference on the coronavirus, Ms Sturgeon said it would be “completely unacceptable” if supplies to Scottish care homes were being disrupted, and said she would be seeking "assurances" from the UK government.

The First Minister said: "Our Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, is raising this matter with Matt Hancock, the UK Health Secretary, and is seeking to speak to him directly about that.

"I hope no one thinks this is in any way a point of political nature, it is a point about fairness and cooperation as all of us deal with the challenge of this virus.

"Any situation where supplies were being diverted from one part of the UK to another without consultation or cooperation would clearly be unacceptable.

"That is why we are seeking to investigate these issues further and to address them as quickly as possible."

The suggestion one nation was being favoured over others was rejected by Number 10, however.

The Prime Minister’s spokesperson said: “Our PPE strategy is UK-wide, making sure that frontline workers in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have the PPE they need. 

“We have not instructed any company to prioritise PPE for one nation over the others."

The row comes amid continued pressure on the UK government to ensure protective equipment including gowns, masks and visors are delivered to frontline staff treating coronavirus patients.

On Tuesday the Doctors’ Association UK, which has launched a crowd-funding effort to secure its own supply of personal protective equipment, said nearly half of its members doing high-risk procedures were unable to access the gowns needed to do their jobs.

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