A MASSIVE mountain of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is currently sitting on Felixstowe docks while frontline healthcare workers are still being forced to work in dangerous conditions without any adequate protection.
According to the Telegraph newspaper nearly 10,000 shipping containers full of surgical masks, aprons and gloves are stuck at the port, with the Tory government paying a staggering £1 million a day storage charges to keep them there.
Trade unions representing health workers have condemned this complete failure to deliver the urgently needed PPE to the NHS, with Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe, the Unite national officer for health, saying: ‘The long-running problems with the delivery of PPE are a national scandal that have shocked the public.’
He added: ‘Our members on the NHS and social care frontline, such as speech and language therapists, paramedics and health visitors, are still reporting difficulties getting the necessary PPE nine months after the first lockdown.’
Christina McAnea, Unison assistant general secretary, said: ‘Health and care workers can’t avoid close contact with patients and vulnerable people to carry out their jobs. Having plentiful access to the right PPE is vital and we have to make sure all key workers are well equipped.’
This news is just the latest in the scandal surrounding the provision of vital PPE to the NHS, and Felixstowe port authorities aren’t the only ones to be making vast amounts of money out of PPE.
Last week, a review by Britain’s spending watchdog, the National Audit Office, of 8,600 contracts for PPE revealed that the government has signed agreements for hundreds of thousands of facemasks which turned out to be unusable.
As the coronavirus pandemic raged across the UK, from April £12.3billion was handed out to any firm claiming to be able to provide the NHS with protective equipment as hospitals and care homes ran out.
Many of these companies turned out to have no experience of supplying PPE – but this didn’t stop them winning multi-million deals with the government.
According to the Audit Office, suppliers with political contacts with the Tories were ten times more likely to be awarded these contracts.
The Audit Office announced an urgent investigation of one of the most extraordinary deals – worth £21 million – for surgical gloves and gowns with a Florida-based jewellery designer.
When questioned in Parliament last week about these findings Boris Johnson refused to apologise and claimed he was ‘very proud’ of the government’s record of paying a fortune to these companies for equipment that is mostly unusable.
On Sunday, Tory Chancellor Rishi Sunak, interviewed on the Andrew Marr Show, also refused to apologise for PPE contracts given to companies with links to Tory MPs and ministers during the first wave of coronavirus, and defended the government buying 50 million face masks from Ayanda Capital – an investment firm – that were later found to be unusable for NHS workers. ‘It was right to try to do everything we can, and I’m not going to apologise for us reacting in that way,’ Sunak said.
In August it was reported that over 600 health and social care workers had died from Covid-19 while the Department for Health and Social Care confirmed that deaths of NHS staff are to be kept secret. No wonder they are so desperate to keep the number of deaths among NHS and care workers quiet.
The Tories gifted millions to private companies for useless PPE and now are spending £1 million a day to keep tons of vital equipment sitting on a quay while health workers scrabble around for the protection they need.
Appeals to the Tories to apologise for their actions are useless – the only way forward for the working class to defend the NHS is to demand that the trade union leadership either mobilise the unions in a general strike to bring down the Tories or be kicked out and replaced with a leadership that is prepared to fight.
Only the organisation of a general strike to bring down the Tories and go forward to a workers’ government and socialism can assure the future of the NHS and the safety of its workers.