The government has announced the appointment of a ‘tsar' to coordinate the manufacture and distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the coronavirus crisis.
Lord Deighton will coordinate the process of design through to manufacture of PPE, including the approvals and procurement process to ensure new domestic PPE supplies are “rapidly approved and get to where they are needed”, said the Department for Health and Social Care in a statement.
It said the new programme will start to deliver PPE supplies from next week.
Paul Deighton will also facilitate smaller companies who have volunteered their services to contribute to the national manufacturing effort.
Commenting, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “Unite called for a minister for PPE and testing to be appointed weeks ago. It may have taken the government a while to heed our calls but Unite is relieved that they are eventually understanding that the country needs this key appointment at this time of crisis.”
He added: “With the appointment of Lord Deighton, I sincerely hope that the shortcomings in PPE supply of recent weeks can be rapidly overcome so that our workers can feel that they are being cared for while they care for us. It is quite clear from the distressing reports of NHS staff going without the equipment that they need that there is not a minute more to be wasted.”
In a survey by the British Medical Association of 6,000 respondents, two-thirds said they faced PPE shortages or no protection at all, and nearly half said they felt pressure often or sometimes to work without adequate protection.
Health secretary Matt Hancock has secured a shipment this week of thousands of protective gowns which were ordered from Turkey.
But Labour MP, Rachel Reeves, speaking on 21 April, said: “There are many businesses who have the capability and the skills to make this PPE particularly the gowns but have not heard back from government.
"Some are doing it on an ad hoc basis but this needs to be systematic, a national effort using all our manufacturing and textile capacity and capability to ensure the docs and nurses have that equipment and clothing that they need.”
Lord Deighton previously served as Chief Executive of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), the organisation responsible for planning and delivering the 2012 Summer Olympics and Paralympics.
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