U.K. Air Force Jet’s Dash to Turkey Shows Crisis That NHS Faces

(Bloomberg) --

A Royal Air Force plane has been lying empty on a runway in Turkey waiting to fulfill its mission: stocking up with medical equipment that’s direly needed back in the U.K.

The plane, dispatched Monday afternoon without a clear timeline to return, underlines the predicament faced by countries around the world that are rushing to source enough of the so-called personal protective equipment to protect health workers from the coronavirus. U.K. finance minister Rishi Sunak has said the Turkish delivery, which includes much-needed gowns, will be sorted out as soon as possible.

“We’ve never in our history had to try and get our hands on so much PPE so quickly,” Simon Clarke, a Conservative Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, told LBC radio on Tuesday. “This is an unprecedented challenge.”

The government has already delivered a billion items of PPE, which include protective gowns, masks to and gloves, to the front lines since the outbreak of the crisis, Clarke said. It’s working to source more of the equipment from domestic suppliers as well as from abroad. The country received 140,000 virus protective gowns from Myanmar on Monday. So far, national figures have yet to be published on the usage of the equipment.

While the NHS has focused on getting items to hospitals, care homes and hospices have complained they have been neglected. The government’s efforts can’t deliver fast enough for many health-care workers, with some warning that they are close to running out of essential items.

“Many colleagues have a lack of confidence in plastic aprons that have been provided,” Richard Vautrey, chairman of the general practitioners’ committee at the British Medical Association, said in an interview on Friday. “Many hospitals have struggled to gain necessary PPE as well, such as gowns when they run out.”

There were 18,516 deaths registered in the week ending April 10, 76% more than the average figure for the same week over the previous five years, the Office For National Statistics said Tuesday. Deaths in care homes, a hot spot for the virus, rose more than 320% to 826 in the week ending April 10.

In some cases, the lack of supplies has led local residents to take matters into their own hands. A number of people around the country have bought 3D printers to make face visors that they give away to workers in their area.

“A lot of these care homes aren’t getting anything, so something is better than nothing,” said Sam Heaton, who’s helped deliver over 1,700 homemade visors, mostly to care homes and nurses near his home in North Devon while he’s been furloughed from his job at a printing business. “They’re getting them off us because no one else is giving them. If they had them, they wouldn’t get them from me.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.