Wednesday 22 April 2020 / 12:18 PM Coronavirus / Rachel Reeves

Dozens of companies offering PPE ‘ignored’ by Government, Labour reveals

Dozens of British companies have told the Labour Party that their offer to help the Government provide PPE to frontline NHS staff has been ignored.

Over the weekend, Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Rachel Reeves wrote to Michael Gove expressing concerns about the shortages of PPE.

Since then, 36 British companies have approached the Labour Party to say that their offers to help the Government provide PPE to frontline staff “have not received a reply”.

This includes:

  • Issa Exchange Ltd in Birmingham that told Labour it offered a quarter of a million aprons and masks
  • Network Medical Products in Ripon, which says it can provide 100,000 face visors per week
  • CQM Learning, which says it can provide 8,000 face shields per day

As key workers across the country warn about a lack of PPE provision, analysis suggests these companies alone could provide tens of thousands of masks, gowns and aprons every day to NHS and social care staff.

This morning The Guardian reported that the Government missed opportunities to secure at least 16 million face masks for NHS staff in the month.

Labour has passed the details of these companies over to the Government to help support the national effort to get equipment to the frontline.

In a letter to Michael Gove, Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Rachel Reeves said:

“You and your officials and those at the Department for Health and Social Care will be best placed to validate what capability and capacity these firms have, but as they have not received a reply after contacting the Government, I wanted to ensure that the Cabinet Office was aware of them.

“Of these firms, if just one, five or 10 were able to contribute to the national effort of ensuring that our NHS and care workers – and indeed anybody who needs to use some form of Personal Protective Equipment and clothing – could be better protected, or just one hospital or care home were able to access adequate supplies of the PPE they need, I know you will agree that that would go a long way and make a big difference.”

Ends

Full text of Rachel Reeves’ latest letter to Michael Gove:

Dear Michael,

Since my letter to you at the weekend, I have been contacted by a great number of UK manufacturing and textiles companies who state that they have the capacity to manufacture Personal Protective Equipment and have contacted the Government to offer to do so, but have heard nothing back.

As the Labour Party have made clear, we want to help the Government in the national effort to defeat the Coronavirus, and that is why I wanted to pass the details of these offers on to you at the earliest opportunity.

You and your officials and those at the Department for Health and Social Care will be best placed to validate what capability and capacity these firms have, but as they have not received a reply after contacting the Government, I wanted to ensure that the Cabinet Office was aware of them.

Of these firms, if just one, five or 10 were able to contribute to the national effort of ensuring that our NHS and care workers – and indeed anybody who needs to use some form of Personal Protective Equipment and clothing – could be better protected, or just one hospital or care home were able to access adequate supplies of the PPE they need, I know you will agree that that would go a long way and make a big difference.

Unique Disposables in Bolton; the Appeal Group in Bristol, and Network Medical Products in Ripon are among the firms that have offered to provide items of essential protective equipment in the tens of thousands.

Some firms that I have heard from, such as CQM Learning, based in Sheffield, have been dealing with hospitals, care homes, other care providers, GP surgeries and pharmacies directly, despite having no response from Government. And, despite acute concerns within our health service about our depleting stock of protective visions, CQM were extremely surprised to be asked to export 20,000 visors this week.

I have spoken this week to a number of medical professionals who are hugely concerned about diminishing supplies of full-length gowns, masks, and protective visors, and about the implications for their own health and – most of all – for their loved ones. Workers in social care, too, are desperate for the equipment they need and, in far too many cases, have not yet seen.

It is clear that far more needs to be done to procure adequate supplies of PPE, and that the Government’s existing approach of relying on importing PPE from overseas and turning to big-name UK manufacturers is not delivering the supply that is needed.

I would therefore like to ask:

  • How many companies have contacted the government to offer to manufacture PPE?
  • How many of these offers have been replied to?
  • How many of these businesses have been commissioned to manufacture PPE, and what forms? Please list each business, the volumes manufactured by each business and the dates the government made and received the orders.
  • What measures have been taken to ensure these offers are processed and responded to more quickly?

We need Government to strain every sinew and utilise untapped resources in UK manufacturing, to deliver essential equipment to frontline workers. This must be a national effort which leaves no stone unturned.

As an appendix to this letter, I enclose details of these companies and their offers.

Yours sincerely,

Rachel Reeves
Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster