Health workers in face masks. Photo: Pexels/cottonbro Health workers in face masks. Photo: Pexels/cottonbro

The government is failing to deliver PPE while trade unions consider strike action to save lives, writes Lucy Nichols

Thousands of medical workers around the country have threatened walk-outs if the government continues with its failure to provide adequate PPE. Trade unions Unite and UNISON have both advised their members to walk out of work if they feel unsafe.

This comes after NHS England has dramatically relaxed its guidelines surrounding PPE in an attempt to mitigate the shortage of protective equipment. There is no getting round the truth: these new guidelines put lives at risk. Medics have been advised to wear aprons if they are unable to access full-length gowns, or to wash and reuse single-use gowns.


As Coronavirus hospital deaths surpass 15,000 – including more than 50 frontline health workers – it is glaringly obvious that the government is simply not doing enough to protect the people risking their lives to save others.

A report from the Royal College of Nursing reveals that half of nursing staff in the UK have felt pressure to work without sufficient PPE. This includes those working around high-risk patients and patients who are on ventilators. What is even more shocking is that 10% of nurses rely on eye or mouth protection that they have bought or made themselves.

The Tories’ shambolic response to Coronavirus has led to thousands of avoidable deaths. It is both tragic and appalling that so many healthcare workers have died – largely due to the lack of protective equipment and test kits.


What is even more telling is that so many of these workers have been ethnic minorities, or have been migrants from other countries. It is scandalous that the party responsible for Windrush and the ‘hostile environment’ now relies so heavily on foreign workers in the NHS, and is so readily allowing them to die doing crucial work.

Today’s government briefing neatly sidestepped questions about PPE. Robert Jenrick (Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government) instead made vague promises and empty statements, even conceding that the government has ‘got to do more’. Jenrick failed to elaborate beyond this, apart from telling us that 84 tonnes of PPE is being shipped from Turkey.

Our government’s response to the Coronavirus is unfortunately to be expected from the Conservatives, who have for years undermined the welfare state. Decades of neoliberal cuts now mean that we are treating the NHS as if it is a charity rather than a vital, state-owned service.

We shouldn’t be fundraising for the NHS by having pensioners do laps of their gardens, or by having teenagers on Instagram run 5k.

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