Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Response to reports in the media about British companies shipping PPE abroad

Recent reports of British companies having ship their PPE abroad highlight two important facts about our response to COVID-19 in this critical time: 1) That we in fact have a good supply of PPE here in the UK despite accusations of the contrary, and 2) despite the best efforts of the UK government in running a military-sized operation in delivering PPE to everywhere that needs it, not all businesses have been selected to supply PPE.

There are many possible reasons to a business's PPE supply application being rejected or turned down: It could be that the PPE they supply simply do not meet the standards we have and are therefore inadequate, or are of such poor quality that they are simply defenseless against COVID-19; it could be that another supplier is able to put forward a more competitive offer or provide a quicker delivery time of the PPE than what the business is putting forward; it could even be that we are actually well stocked up on the particular kind of PPE that the business is offering, as there are a variety of different PPE items required and different providers will be more well stocked up on different types of PPE and less so on other types.

What I do know, as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Matt Hancock, is that the Department for Health and Social Care is being inundated with offers of PPE on a regular basis, and are working hard 24/7 to process them as quickly as possible.

But as with any procurement process invariably some businesses will not be selected. It would be wrong to expect every single business and person that steps forward with a PPE offer to be accepted as an approved supplier.

COVID-19 is an international challenge some British businesses for one reason or another have decide to divert their supply of PPE to other countries. This is ultimately their decision and one that MPs have little control over.

I also want to make clear that here in Cornwall we have secured a sustainable supply of PPE for our NHS doctors and nurses. I am well aware of the PPE challenges facing a small number of care home providers and my team and I are working very hard to get them the PPE they need. 

The Government is not underestimating the size of this challenge, but the Prime Minister has said he will do everything in his power to keep healthcare workers safe as they care for the rest of society. We know there is more to do in this area, and the full weight of the Government is working to deliver that as quickly as possible.

As General Sir Nick Carter, the Chief of Defence Staff, made clear during the government news conference on 22 April:

"First and foremost this has been a logistic task and I would say that I think in all of my more than 40 years of service this is the single greatest logistic challenge that I have come across."

In dealing with this unprecedented challenge, what everyone must recognise is that our NHS – like any health service around the world – only has a limited number of doctors, nurses, and specialist equipment. This means it can only deal with so many sick people at once.

The more people that get sick with Coronavirus at any one time the harder it is for the NHS to cope – meaning more people are likely to die from the Coronavirus, as well as other serious illnesses. Therefore, if we can slow the spread of Coronavirus so fewer people are sick at any one time, we can protect the NHS’s ability to cope.

That’s why, in addition to improving the capacity of the NHS, the Government is asking everyone to stay at home and stay safe. It is simply the best weapon we have to slow the spread of the virus. That way we can protect the NHS and save lives.

Thank you again for taking the time to write to me.