Nicola Sturgeon has defended the Scottish Government’s handling of PPE supplies during the coronavirus pandemic after it was accused of ignoring repeated NHS warnings about low stock levels.
Labour’s Monica Lennon quizzed the first minister on the issue at Holyrood in the wake of our investigation which revealed that the government had known for “a long time” that its larger reserves of face mask respirators were out-of-date.
Emails showed that NHS procurement chiefs said they had regularly informed the Holyrood administration about the stock problem in the lead-up to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Shortages of PPE (personal protective equipment) have hit countries across the world during the pandemic, contributing to its rapid spread.
In March, Scotland issued face masks that were over their original expiry date after they were reassessed as safe by the Health and Safety Executive and Health Protection Scotland.
At Holyrood on Thursday, Ms Lennon questioned whether ongoing PPE problems were slowing down the resumption of medical services.
Speaking after updating MSPs on the response to the outbreak, Ms Sturgeon said: “On the direct question, no, lack of PPE is not a reason for not resuming services.
“And I would remind Monica Lennon, and indeed the whole chamber, that at no point within this crisis has Scotland run out of any aspect of PPE.
“We have worked hard to make sure that supplies are there, we’ve worked hard overcoming challenges that we have faced along the way.
“We readily acknowledge that to make sure the distribution is getting to where it was needed, and where we’ve had to make changes to that, we’ve made those changes.
“Along the way that has also involved the revalidation of some of the items of PPE that had been date expired and we have done all of that and made sure the staff working in our NHS have the PPE they need and will continue to take that responsibility very seriously.”
Ms Lennon, Scottish Labour’s health and social care spokeswoman, had earlier said: “For the Scottish Government not to have acted on serious concerns about PPE supplies before the coronavirus outbreak is an absolute dereliction of duty.
“While the health secretary claimed in public there were adequate PPE supplies, behind the scenes officials were being candid about the lack of preparation.
“Scottish Labour raised these concerns repeatedly, only to be told the government had the situation in hand – we know beyond any doubt now that this was not the case.
“Staff across all health and care settings were forced to put on masks that were long past their use by date. Inadequate PPE and a lack of testing has been scandalous.
“Front line health and social care staff, and the people they care for, should never be put in danger.
“Scottish ministers must be held to account.”