Coronavirus fight: Health Secretary outlines ‘Herculean effort’ to keep NHS staff safe

More than 742 million items of personal protective equipment (PPE) have been delivered to the frontline since the coronavirus outbreak began. It came as health chiefs urged Britain to “take the pain” of lockdown now to make gains in a “few weeks time”. The Government has unveiled a three-point plan to ensure supplies stay strong for however long the battle continues.

Concerns have been raised that doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers are being exposed to coronavirus due to shortages of kit, including gloves, face masks and eye protection.

Mr Hancock said his goal was for everyone to have access to equipment “to protect the people who protect us”.

Daily deliveries to hospitals and a new online system to raise the alarm when more is needed will help meet demand.

The plan includes ensuring guidelines are clear so staff know when they do, and do not, need protection and how often it needs to be changed.

It also covers distribution, to make sure equipment reaches thousands of sites across the country, and securing future supplies, both through imports and calling on British industry to boost domestic production.

Mr Hancock said: “The sheer quantity and type of PPE needed has radically changed because of coronavirus.

“We’ve had to create a whole new logistics network essentially from scratch. All of these challenges around supply, around usage and distribution are being overcome.

“This is a Herculean logistical effort. We’ve brought together the NHS, private industry and the Army, in fact the Armed Forces, to create a giant PPE distribution network on an unprecedented scale.”

Mr Hancock said that under normal conditions, many care providers do not need weekly deliveries of PPE and NHS Supply Chain supplies just 233 hospital trusts. Now, 58,000 separate care providers are in need of regular top-ups. NHS hospitals have been receiving a delivery of PPE once every 72 hours and over the next week this is being increased to daily.

Care homes, GP surgeries and hospitals will also be able to request extra supplies via a new online portal, as well as through the already established hotline.

This will allow health chiefs to track demand in real time and deliver according to need.

Mr Hancock added: “There’s enough PPE to go around, but only if it’s used in line with our guidance. We need everyone to treat PPE like the precious resource that it is.”


To ensure enough supplies are available to see us through the crisis, the Government is also creating a PPE manufacturing industry, as it has done with ventilators.

Mr Hancock thanked firms including Burberry, Rolls-Royce and McLaren who have already offered to produce gowns and visors.

Meanwhile, deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said the UK was still in a “dangerous phase” in the coronavirus crisis and the fight is “not over”.

He told the daily Downing Street press conference it was “premature” to say the UK was at a peak in cases.

The warning comes as the total number of patients who have died in hospital after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK reached 8,958 patients, up by 980 on the previous 24 hours.

Scientists said the lockdown measures must remain for “several more weeks”.

Professor Paul Cosford, from Public Health England, said there were signs the spread of the disease was slowing.

He explained: “It really does look like the numbers are flattening. That is the first sign that we may be getting to the peak of this pandemic.”

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