The SNP has demanded a full explanation from the UK government over its reported failure to join a Europe-wide procurement scheme for personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline health and social care workers tackling the coronavirus pandemic.
The Guardian has reported that UK ministers and officials “missed three chances” to be part of the bulk buying effort for PPE, which follows a similar failure to be part of joint procurement for medical ventilators.
The schemes were not confined to EU member states and were open to the UK to participate.
The PPE programme is now set to deliver more than £1bn worth of personal protective equipment to European doctors and nurses.
The UK government is claiming that it was only aware after the tenders had been put out.
But after being informed of the programme and the UK’s eligibility, UK government officials failed to attend a crucial meeting of health officials to set out their requirement for future purchases.
Dr Philippa Whitford MP, the SNP’s Shadow Health spokesperson(pictured), said:
“The UK government must give a full and proper explanation of their failure to be part of Europe-wide joint procurement of PPE – nothing less than full disclosure will do.
“Why exactly did ministers fail to place orders which would have seen UK doctors, nurses and care staff able to receive the PPE they need?
“The safety of our valued NHS staff is paramount and it would be unforgivable if they were to suffer as a result of UK government incompetence or, even worse, if ideological considerations played any part in this decision.
“The revelations that the UK missed out three times on a Europe-wide scheme to bulk buy vital PPE, and has failed to attend key talks with health officials over securing future equipment, are deeply troubling.
“Governments across the UK have a duty to work together and with international partners to tackle the pandemic effectively.
“The UK government must clarify urgently why it’s not engaging with the programme or sending officials to vital talks over safety equipment supplies– and that must happen without any further delay.”