This is why PPE from Turkey has been delayed - and when emergency equipment will arrive in the UK

Ministers have insisted they are pursuing “every possible option” to secure additional equipment (Photo: Shutterstock)Ministers have insisted they are pursuing “every possible option” to secure additional equipment (Photo: Shutterstock)
Ministers have insisted they are pursuing “every possible option” to secure additional equipment (Photo: Shutterstock)

The UK Government is facing mounting criticism over its failure to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to NHS staff who are treating coronavirus patients.

Ministers have insisted they are pursuing “every possible option” to secure additional equipment, but have blamed unprecedented worldwide demand for the delays.

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On 20 April, an RAF plane departed the UK for Turkey to pick up a delivery of PPE equipment that was delayed.

Here’s what you should know about the row over NHS kit.

Why has PPE from Turkey been delayed?

The government has blamed ‘challenges at the Turkish end’ for the delay in the delivery of PPE supplies, after the life-saving equipment failed to arrive in the UK on Sunday (19 Apr) evening.

RAF planes were instead tasked with going to collect it, with the first of three flights finally leaving from RAF Brize Norton on Monday (20 Apr) to start the collection.

Downing Street was unable to say when the plane would return to the UK, with 84 tonnes of life-saving medical clothing and equipment, including 400,000 protective gowns for the NHS, made by Turkish suppliers.

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The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We're continuing to work to ensure that this shipment is delivered as soon as it is ready.

"As you know, we are seeking to source PPE from a number of countries and yesterday, for example, 140,000 gowns arrived from Burma."

The spokesman said it was a commercial order from a Turkish company which was made last Thursday.

Asked what the hold-up was, the spokesman said: "I don't have the details of the reason for the delay. As I say, we want it to be resolved as quickly as possible and the RAF is able to then bring the cargo back to the UK."

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When will the equipment arrive in the UK?

Health minister Helen Whately has confirmed that tehe delayed Turkish shipment of gowns and protective equipment has now landed in the UK.

Whateley said at least part of the consignment arrived on Wednesday (22 Apr) morning and was being checked, following an unexplained four-day hold up.

It is not yet known whether the plane contained the promised 400,000 gowns, which ministers had previously promised would arrive on Sunday (19 Apr).

Why is there not enough PPE?

The UK Government has not acknowledged an equipment shortage, but has said there are distribution issues that have contributed to the lack of PPE.

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At the daily Downing Street press conference on Monday (20 Apr), Chancellor Rishi Sunak insisted the government was improving its sourcing of PPE both internationally and domestically.

The lack of equipment has sparked fears that staff in hospitals and care homes are risking their lives, prompting the Trades Union Congress (TUC) to call for an independent inquiry into the government’s handling of the issue.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Every day frontline workers are being forced to risk their lives because they don't have the proper protective equipment.

"This is a grotesque failure of planning and preparedness. It must never be allowed to happen again.

“Our NHS, social care and key workers deserve better."

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More than 100 medics in Scotland have signed a letter to the Scottish Government expressing concerns over the lack of PPE, claiming frontline workers do not have suitable aprons, masks and eye protection.

Dr Shahzad Hanif, a GP who co-ordinated the open letter to the Scottish Government, said on BBC’s Good Morning Scotland: "It's not just the quantity of PPE, which the government has so far been focused on, but it's the quality that we feel is simply not adequate to provide enough protection for us.

"There are certainly signs that the quantity of protective equipment is certainly coming through now, certainly into primary care where I work and messages I have had from secondary care echo that - that's less of a concern to us now, to be honest.

"It's more the quality of the equipment that we're more anxious about now."

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The Scottish Government claims the protection of medical staff is its highest priority and insisted there are new measures to ensure the right PPE is available "with the highest possible urgency".

What PPE should I be wearing?

Government guidance states that any clinician working in a hospital, primary care or community care setting, within two metres of a suspected or confirmed coronavirus patient, should wear an apron, gloves, surgical mask and eye protection, based on the risk.

Those who don’t work in a health care setting are not currently advised to use PPE, such as masks and gloves, unless they are displaying symptoms - although they can still be worn as a precaution.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is currently only advising those who are sick and showing symptoms of coronavirus, such as coughing or sneezing, to wear a mask.

If you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are caring for someone with a suspected coronavirus infection.