PPE shortage put frontline workers lives at risk, says Sheffield MP

An “inadequate” pandemic plan left frontline workers risking their lives to provide treatment and care, says a Parliamentary committee with a Sheffield MP.

Tuesday, 23rd February 2021, 7:00 am

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, whose members include Sheffield Hallam MP Olivia Blake, has strongly criticised the Government’s handling of PPE.

It said the Department for Health’s decision to prioritise hospitals at the beginning of the pandemic meant social care providers were left exposed by lack of PPE.

The department maintains no setting ran out of PPE but the committee heard evidence from organisations representing frontline workers that stocks ran perilously low.

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Olivia Blake MP has criticised the Government's handling of PPE

Single use items were reused, some were not fit for purpose – including reports of expired, substandard, deficient or even insect-infested supplies – and staff were in fear that they would run out.

Ms Blake, who questioned government officials during the inquiry, said: “I was contacted by dozens of doctors, nurses and care workers in my constituency who were forced to put their lives at risk every day to continue to provide treatment and care whilst worrying about shortages and having the right kit.

“Doctors on Covid wards were watching the countdown clock on supplies and care workers were asked to re-use disposable PPE.

“Constituents contacted me about relatives tragically passing away, after contracting Covid whilst working in care homes without PPE.

“It is vital that the government learns from the errors uncovered by this inquiry, to make sure we are better prepared and no frontline worker is made to put their life on the line again.

“We owe it to the families of those health care workers who have passed away.”

The Government used emergency regulations to procure more than £10 billion of goods and services without competition.

But the committee criticised these contracts saying they “undermined public trust in government procurement and the use of taxpayers’ money”.

MPs said the Government’s failure to be transparent about buying decisions, publish contracts in a timely manner and maintain proper records of key decisions, had left it open to accusations of “poor value for money, conflicts of interest and preferential treatment of some suppliers”.

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