UK company tried to help the NHS but faced five weeks of frustration over red tape


British company is forced to sell PPE ABROAD after attempt to equip the NHS was met with an ‘impenetrable wall of bureaucracy’

  • British supplier was forced to sell personal protective equipment abroad
  • Firm spent ‘five weeks hammering at the Government’s door’ with no response
  • The Government said it had deployed ‘every resource’ to get PPE supplies 

A British supplier of protective health equipment was forced to sell millions of life- saving items overseas after attempts to equip the NHS were met with an ‘impenetrable wall of bureaucracy’.

The company said Britain’s procurement system was ‘unresponsive at best or incompetent at worst’ and delays were putting lives at risk.

The embarrassing revelations will raise questions about why the Government did not replenish PPE stockpiles and build up more supplies in March as the country entered the crisis.

Ambulance workers are seen putting on PPE outside a hospital in the capital. A fashion boss who turned his high-end ladieswear factory into a scrubs production line says red tape and bureaucracy in the NHS supply chain is putting frontline workers at risk

Amid growing frustration, the Government said it had deployed ‘every resource’ to get its hands on desperately needed PPE supplies and ventilators in recent months.

But the supplier trying to sell millions of masks, gowns and aprons yesterday said it had spent ‘five weeks hammering at the Government’s door’ without response.

Michelle van Vuuren, who runs a London-based property company, turned her business into a PPE distributor working with Chinese suppliers last month as the virus began to spread around the world.

After failed attempts to contact NHS procurement services, Miss van Vuuren contacted Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s office on March 20.

She was subsequently passed to the Cabinet Office but her inquiries went ‘into a vacuum’ and were met with only an automated response.

Amid growing frustration, the Government said it had deployed ¿every resource¿ to get its hands on desperately needed PPE supplies and ventilators in recent months. NHS staff are pictured carrying out coronavirus tests in Lincoln

Amid growing frustration, the Government said it had deployed ‘every resource’ to get its hands on desperately needed PPE supplies and ventilators in recent months. NHS staff are pictured carrying out coronavirus tests in Lincoln

Miss Van Vuuren went on to broker the sale of items to authorities in the US, Europe and the Middle East, leading her to accuse the UK of ‘bureaucratic ineptitude and scandalous incompetence’.

She said: ‘The Department of Health is crippled by inefficiency, mixed messages and a chronic inability to make decisions or payments.’

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson acknowledged on Sunday that some suppliers may have ‘slipped through the net’ after getting in touch with the Government.

Meanwhile, medics on the front line are given these ‘cagoules’

Tearful nurses are being forced to wear ‘cagoules’ instead of proper medical gowns as the NHS awaits supplies from Turkey.

In a fiasco that prompted fury from health leaders, a flight which was meant to collect 84 tons of equipment from Istanbul was delayed for two days.

The aircraft finally left Turkey yesterday evening and was due at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire early today. But it is nearly 48 hours later than ministers had promised.

Two other UK flights bound for Turkey to pick up vital supplies, which include 400,000 protective gowns, were still awaiting take-off last night. 

Tearful nurses are being forced to wear ¿cagoules¿ instead of proper medical gowns as the NHS awaits supplies from Turkey

Tearful nurses are being forced to wear ‘cagoules’ instead of proper medical gowns as the NHS awaits supplies from Turkey

Yesterday the Royal College of Nursing warned that its members were being left in tears at having to wear gowns that resembled cagoules or raincoats.

Glenn Turp, of the RCN’s Yorkshire and Humber regional team, said: ‘Members have contacted us saying that they haven’t got adequate PPE [Personal Protective Equipment] and therefore have been provided with clothing that resembles cagoules. They are so worried and afraid. They cry before they go to work, they cry at work and they cry when they come home.

‘Clearly our members are exceptionally concerned by this and they feel that they are not safe to practise and the Government have failed them.’ In addition to the stocks from Turkey, ministers have obtained supplies from Myanmar in Asia.

Niall Dickson, of the NHS Confederation, which represents hospitals, said the UK needed to ‘look at domestic production’.

Some hospitals have taken to carrying out trials of washing the gowns – which should be single-use – to disinfect them.

Yesterday Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the Government was ‘pursuing every option’ to get more PPE. The Prime Minister’s spokesman said it was a ‘global supply problem’.

 

He called for them to contact the Government again and promised a response ‘in the next 24 hours’.

But Miss Van Vuuren said: ‘There is no point in ministers standing up in front of the world and saying they are open for business while being curtailed by an impenetrable wall of red tape behind doors.’

A fashion boss who turned his high-end ladieswear factory into a scrubs production line says red tape and bureaucracy in the NHS supply chain is putting frontline workers at risk.

Christopher Nieper volunteered to help make scrubs and gowns for nurses and doctors more than a month ago but said he found himself left frustrated and angry by the procurement process.

He was finally able to begin production last week, after bypassing central government and going directly to local hospital trusts.

The BBC said it had been contacted by at least five companies who had been unable to contact the Government with offers of supplies. MPs also described failed efforts of businesses in their constituencies.

Labour MP Diane Abbott said: ‘I have at least one company that has hit a brick wall with the NHS bureaucracy.’

Downing Street insisted it had been well prepared for the crisis, adding that a billion pieces of PPE had been acquired and delivered to frontline staff, with another 25 million gowns procured from China.

The BBC said it had been contacted by at least five companies who had been unable to contact the Government with offers of supplies. MPs also described failed efforts of businesses in their constituencies. Paramedics are pictured outside a London hospital

The BBC said it had been contacted by at least five companies who had been unable to contact the Government with offers of supplies. MPs also described failed efforts of businesses in their constituencies. Paramedics are pictured outside a London hospital

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