PPE | NHS getting better: Government getting worse

Over the last few weeks I have written about problems with NHS procurement.

Since becoming Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock has centralised NHS procurement and cut Trust budgets to save money. This, plus a failure to adequately prepare for a pandemic, has caused shortfalls of PPE across the NHS.

One of the bright spots was Northumbria Healthcare who had set up their own factory to make PPE.

NHS England and Improvement (catchy name) have this week instructed that all Trusts must cease any attempts to procure their own PPE and rely solely on the central procurement team. To help fix any problems Deloitte have been given a contract to add their expertise.

I am afraid I have to tell you that this is a really shit idea. The lastest of a series of shit ideas that Matt Hancock and NHSE&I have taken.

Remember the emergency shipment of gowns the Government procured from Turkey? The RAF mercy dash to get them?

None of them were of the correct standard.

Not a single one could be used.

Under normal circumstances this would have been a sacking for the Minister responsible however politics in the UK is now so downgraded that that no-one will take responsibility for it. After all no-one resigned when they bought 3.5m antibody tests that turned out not to work or the 250 Chinese-supplied ventilators that were deemed to be too dangerous, or even the ventilators they commissioned from a Formula 1 motor racing team that didn’t even get into production.

Prof Ferguson was thrown to the wolves instead, incredibly he was sacked by Boris Johnson for breaking the rules by having an affair with someone else’s wife:

Experts eh? Who needs them?

Lots of Trusts are likely now to ignore NHSE&I and do there own thing. The authority of Matt Hancock, Nadine Dorries, and Sir Simon Stevens is so low across the NHS that I don’t think anyone is listening to them. They have lost the dressing room, but they don’t care.

Northumbria have responded by announcing to the BBC they will be keeping their in house PPE factory for the rest of the year:

With Neil Ferguson defenestrated we can now clearly see the order of scapegoats:

  1. Chris Whitty
  2. Sir Simon Stevens
  3. The rest of the top team at NHSE&I

No Minister will take any responsibility for any of the failures no matter how catastrophic. The only circumstances that would see Hancock out would be if Johnson feels that his own glossy image is being tarnished by association.

This leaves a massive problem in Nursing and Residential care where PPE shortages are acute, and the death toll shows no signs of falling. The Government made a massive error of judgement putting resources into Nightingale Hospitals (which currently have no patients) and ignoring the risk in Care Homes (which have lots).

The contract for Care Home PPE has been given to a company called Clipper Logistics. No PPE is expected to be available to care homes under this contract for several weeks.

Meanwhile no-one seems to be sighted on what is happening with domiciliary care (vulnerable people cared for in their own homes). We provided hand sanitiser to a charity who works with domiciliary care workers, and we were shocked by the situation we found. Someone cared for at home might be visited by different carers several times a day. These carers in turn might be charged with visiting several vulnerable people for time constrained visits every shift. A perfect way to spread horrible illnesses to vulnerable people.

The FT are still calculating 52,000 excess mortality, well in excess of the 30,000 the Government is admitting to. I worry that a big part of these excess deaths are vulnerable people being cared for at home, dying without ever getting to hospital. I can’t imagine anything more tragic.

The Government is doing a very bad job. Don’t let people tell you otherwise. They were pathetically under prepared for this crisis, and their instincts were always to manage the media not the disease: promote good news stories rather than deal with difficult truths.

This incompetence is not an accident. It is the result of decisions taken over the last few years. The Tory Party was purged of anyone who wouldn’t sign up to the hardest Brexit regardless of the consequences, and most of the talent went with them.

Boris, for all his bluster, is a weak character, desperate for acclaim, who surrounds himself with nonentities to make his own light shine brighter. Part Billy Bunter, part Billy Bullshit. Without his back bench fandom mooing along with his jokes he is a rather sad figure.

We are 6 weeks away from the last date we can ask for an extension to the Brexit timetable. We are pathetically ill prepared for this too, and have a government which has no idea how to manage it, but we will not delay it because they fear a bad news story. We failed with coronavirus and we will fail on Brexit.

Despite the highest death toll in Europe the Government are planning to start lifting lockdown restrictions to try and create some good news stories. This however is simply the Government spin machine catching up with reality. The lockdown is gradually falling apart as people get sick of not getting straight answers from the PM.

The rest of us are left, like Keir Starmer, asking the million dollar question – how on earth did it come to this?

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