Shipment of 400,000 delayed protective gowns from Turkey deemed unusable

  • Video report by ITV News Health Correspondent Emily Morgan

The shipment of 400,000 gowns from Turkey which was part of a delayed consignment of personal protective equipment (PPE) has been impounded in a warehouse after falling short of UK standards.

The personal protective equipment (PPE) was flown into the UK by the RAF last month, arriving three days late, but has been held in a government warehouse near Heathrow since, the Daily Telegraph said.

During mid-April, when coronavirus deaths in the UK were at their highest, the NHS required 150,000 gowns each day.

Cabinet minister Brandon Lewis said the gowns were “not be of the quality that we feel is good enough for our frontline staff”.

He also refused to disclose how much money was spent on them, but said it is "reassuring that our experts are very focused on ensuring the best quality of equipment".

The Government is in discussions about the possibility of securing replacement gowns or a refund from its supplier in Turkey.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “An initial deposit was paid and the NHS is in discussions with the supplier over whether replacement gowns can be manufactured to meet our standards.

“If this is not possible a refund will be sought.”

Issues over the supply of protective equipment such as gowns and masks for health workers have plagued the government throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

An RAF Atlas, believed to be carrying a cargo of PPE is unloaded at Brize Norton Credit: PA

Speaking on Sky News, Mr Lewis said: “Well when we’re securing PPE from around the world you do it based on a set of standards that you’re looking to acquire to, but obviously once it’s here we check that it is good enough for what we want to use and in this instance some of this PPE turned out not to be good enough.”

He continued: “There was a view that it was good enough PPE, it is only when it has got here that teams have looked at it again and taken a view that it is not up to the right standard and they’ve decided not to use it.

“I think it is right that if we have got particular standards for what we want our frontline staff to be able to have access to we make sure we stick to that.

“If something isn’t right, if we’re not even sure about it then I think it is better to be safe and not use that product and stick with products we are confident are the right products and the right standards.”

PPE for health workers Credit: PA graphics

The Government announced in April that it had managed to source a substantial supply of gowns from Turkey, which, after an initial delay, was flown back into the UK on April 22.

However it has since been revealed that some of the equipment did not meet the required criteria to be suitable for use by frontline healthcare workers, the Telegraph reported.

It is not yet clear whether the government will pursue a refund over the order.

In a statement to the paper, the Department of Health and Social Care said: “This is a global pandemic with many countries procuring PPE, leading to shortages around the world, not just the UK.

“We are working night and day to source PPE internationally and domestically and brought together the NHS, industry and the Armed Forces to create a comprehensive PPE distribution network to deliver critical supplies to the front line.

“All deliveries of PPE are checked to ensure the equipment meets the safety and quality standards our frontline staff need. If equipment does not meet our specifications or pass our quality assurance processes, it is not distributed to the front line.”

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