A delayed shipment of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from Turkey has failed to meet UK safety standards.
The shipment was expected to ease the UK shortage of gowns and other equipment in the NHS, but the delivery was repeatedly delayed.
Now that it has arrived in the UK, 400,000 gowns and other PPE have been found to be useless. Here’s what you need to know - and what happens next.
What is PPE?
PPE includes items such as masks, gloves, safety helmets, eye protection and high visibility clothing, which help reduce the spread of the virus.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues, equipment like face masks, visors, gloves and gowns are essential for NHS staff and other key workers.
It helps protect them from contracting the virus, and also reduces the likelihood of them spreading the virus to others if they are asymptomatic.
What happened with the PPE from Turkey?
The UK government revealed that some 400,000 surgical gowns ordered from Turkey have failed to meet British safety standards.
Half of the PPE order was flown to the UK via the RAF in April, but has not been given to NHS workers, and is currently being stored in a warehouse.
The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) confirmed on the evening of Wednesday 7 May that the items were being held in a facility near Heathrow airport.
The Telegraph reported that the imported gear was “useless”, according to senior sources.
The gowns are due to be sent back to Turkey, with the DHSC intending to seek a refund for the unsuitable surgical gowns.
Northern Ireland Secretary Brand Lewis told Sky News: “We believed this equipment was going to be of the right standard, but when our experts here tested it, they found it wasn’t.”
The Turkish company that produced the PPE had previously been making tracksuits and shirts before the pandemic.
A British Medical Association survey revealed that half of England’s doctors have been forced to source their own PPE, or have had to rely on donations when none were available through the usual NHS channels.
“This is a global pandemic with many countries procuring PPE, leading to shortages around the world, not just the UK,” a DHSC spokesperson said.
The spokesperson continued: “We are working night and day to source PPE internationally and domestically, and brought together the NHS, industry and the armed forces to create a comprehensive PPE distribution network to deliver critical supplies to the frontline.
“All deliveries of PPE are checked to ensure the equipment meets the safety and quality standards our frontline staff need. If equipment does not meet our specifications or pass our quality assurance processes, it is not distributed to the front line.”