Public inquiry needed over “grotesque failure” of planning on PPE, says TUC

  • Shortages of PPE show lack of planning and preparedness, says union body  
  • More than 80 health and social care workers have died of Covid-19   

The TUC has today (Tuesday) called on the government to set up a public inquiry into the “grotesque” failure to provide frontline workers with adequate personal protective equipment (PPE).

The TUC says ministers must commit to starting an independent, judge-led inquiry by the end of 2020.

The union body says the failure to give staff adequate PPE has resulted in workers being exposed to unnecessary risk.

More than 80 health and social care workers have lost their lives so far.  But on Friday 18 April, Public Health England issued guidance for health workers to reuse PPE if stocks run low.

The TUC says that in order for the same mistakes not be made in the future the inquiry must look at:

  • Why there were delays in the planning for and delivery of PPE.
  • Whether guidance about the need for PPE in diverse workplace settings was timely and robust.
  • Whether staff were put under pressure to work with inadequate or out-of-date PPE; and if so why.
  • Whether staff were threatened with disciplinary action for raising concerns about the lack of PPE; and if so why.
  • Why the NHS, social and residential care and other workplace settings have struggled to source PPE from suppliers.

The enquiry should cover the whole workforce, including both public and private sector workers undertaking essential work which cannot be safely performed without appropriate PPE.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“Every day frontline workers are being forced to risk their lives because they don’t have the proper protective equipment.

“And now they are being told just to make do.

“This is a grotesque failure of planning and preparedness. It must never be allowed to happen again. Our NHS, social care and key workers deserve better.

“Right now, the government must sort out the PPE crisis urgently. But we are also calling on ministers to commit to an independent, public inquiry into the failure to provide frontline workers with adequate PPE, kicking off by the end of this year.

“And to every key worker out there worried about getting the PPE they need, I say this: your unions will support you if you refuse to work without adequate protection. We have your backs.”

On Sunday the NHS Confederation and NHS Providers publicly criticised the government for announcing PPE deliveries that failed to materialise.

Their concerns were echoed by bodies including the Royal College of Anaesthetists and the Royal College of Nurses who warned that inadequate supplies of PPE may force staff to stop treating patients.

There have also been reports about home care staff making emergency masks and smocks from bin liners.

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