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PMQs: Keir Starmer claims PPE problems for NHS staff ‘getting worse not better’ in clash with Dominic Raab

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer at PMQS (PA)

3 min read

Efforts to get protective equipment to health workers on the coronavirus frontline are getting “worse not better”, Sir Keir Starmer claimed at Prime Minister’s Questions.

The Labour leader urged ministers not to ignore "pleas" from workers dealing with the coronavirus pandemic amid warnings that vital equipment remains hard-to-get.

But Dominic Raab, who was standing in for Boris Johnson after the announcement of the birth of his new baby, rejected the assertion from the Labour leader.

The First Secretary of State said social distancing measures and increased critical care capacity in the NHS show that the Government’s strategy in containing the Covid-19 outbreak were working.

However the senior minister said there could be "no sugar coating” the challenge in care homes after figures revealed sharp rise in the number of deaths within them.

Speaking in the Commons, Sir Keir pressed Mr Raab on getting PPE to NHS and other care staff, saying: “You’d hope that by now things would be getting better not worse. 

“Yet a survey by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) published on Monday reported that one in four doctors are still not getting the protective equipment that they need."

He added: “Now I know that’s not where the First Secretary or the Government want to be with indications from the frontline that things are worse not better. 

“But he must recognise this is a plea from the frontline. So can I ask the First Secretary what’s going on? And how soon can it be fixed?”

Mr Raab replied: “I take exception with him insisting that things are getting worse. not better. That is not true overall." 

And he told Sir Keir.“There is no minimising or sugar coating any of those cri de cœur that he mentioned. I feel animated, inspired to do even better. But he needs to recognise on PPE that there is a global supply shortage and we’re doing absolutely everything we can to make sure that those on the frontline get the equipment that they need.”

The Labour leader shot back: “The First Secretary says he takes exception to what I said about things worsening. 

“I’ve tried not on this to base anything on my own personal opinion because I don’t think that’s helpful.

“What I was quoting was the RCP, those on the frontline, so it’s not my view, it’s their view.”

The Labour leader also pressed the Foreign Secretary about care home deaths, which he said from the new ONS data “appear to have been rising even while hospital deaths have been falling”.

Mr Raab said within the stats “there are some positive signs, but I think they’re frankly within the margin of error and we need to be very focused that there is a challenge in care homes, and we’ve got a plan to grip it so there’s no sugar coating that issue”.

And he claimed it was "far too early to make international comparisons" amid signs the UK is on track for one of the worst coronavirus death tolls in Europe.

"I think we are already seeing that there are different ways that deaths are measured not just in the UK in the different settings but across Europe and across the world," the senior Cabinet minster said.


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