The union GMB has slammed the health secretary’s ‘gross ministerial incompetence’ as its members struggle on the NHS front lines without protective kit to do their jobs safely

Union leaders say faith in Health Secretary Matt Hancock is “draining away” after the change in personal protective equipment (PPE) guidance, suggesting he might have to consider his position.
Housing and Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick announced in today’s daily Downing Street coronavirus briefing very large consignment” of personal protective equipment – including 400,000 gowns – is due to arrive in the UK from Turkey tomorrow.
But the NHS is currently using 150,000 gowns a day – meaning the new shipment will last just days.
Earlier, Rachel Harrison, national officer of the GMB, said the union raised critical protective equipment supply issues with the Government more than a month ago.
“It took until last Friday for ministers’ PPE plan to be published, and it’s falling apart after just a week. It is key workers on the front line who are paying the price for this litany of failure.
“It appears Government guidance is being hastily redrawn based on availability, not on evidence or best practice. This is downright dangerous territory and one that will amplify the concerns of NHS staff.
“The Health Secretary now has serious and urgent questions to answer. Trust is draining away.
The union says Matt Hancock has left health workers struggling to obtain PPE in grave danger (Image: Getty)
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“He must urgently explain how this apparently non-clinical decision was made to downgrade public health advice in apparent contravention of global standards and previous advice.
“GMB won’t tolerate a situation where our members are pushed on to the front line without the basic kit they need to do their jobs safely. NHS and ambulance staff will now face unacceptable risks as a result of gross ministerial incompetence.
“We won’t let this go unchallenged and will now review the steps we need to take protect our members.”
There are fears hospitals will soon run out of PPE (Image: BBC)
GMB union national officer Rachel Harrison
Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “The continued lack of PPE is a national scandal and the Government’s litany of broken promises over the last month is shameful.
“The public is looking on aghast as brave doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers are risking their lives to provide care to very sick patients – yet they don’t have the necessary protection to carry out their roles.
“Health Secretary Matt Hancock needs to sort out the logjam in PPE supplies urgently, otherwise he may have to consider his position as this situation can’t continue, as health professionals would be quite right to decline to put themselves in danger.
“This would go against every instinct in their body and every tenet of their professional training, but already the public is very alarmed at the rising toll of NHS staff who have died due to coronavirus as they have battled the pandemic.
“We are not just talking about NHS staff in hospitals, but those working in the community, such as health visitors and community nurses, and those employed in social care settings, such as care homes.
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“Unite has already advised its 100,000 members that reluctantly NHS and social care staff could legitimately and lawfully decline to put themselves in further danger and risk of injury at work.”
On Friday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told a Commons committee that he would “love to be able to wave a magic wand” to increase PPE supplies.
He told the Commons Health and Social Care Committee that the equipment was a “precious resource” and that maintaining supplies was challenging due to the very high global demand.