Ministers warned that a pandemic would lead to shortages in protection for doctors more than a DECADE ago


MINISTERS were first warned at least a decade ago that a major pandemic could lead to shortages in protection for doctors.

Simulations which took place by NHS trusts in 2007 – 2008 to help them plan for new outbreaks revealed “pinch points” in the level of equipment, The Times revealed today.

There are fears there will not be enough protective equipment for NHS workers

Health service chiefs were told by the Cabinet Office to assume that there would be issues with protective kit if a crisis came.

Russell King, a resilience manager in the NHS at the time, said: “The Cabinet Office had identified the availability and distribution of PPE as a pinch point in a pandemic… It was already part of the national assumption.”

Doctors and nurses have been crying out for extra protection for weeks, saying they don’t have enough to keep themselves safe.

And last night Dr Phillip Lee, previously a justice minister, warned of further test runs for emergency heath crises which exposed holes in the system.

He said in 2016 he took part in a three-day Government exercise called “Ex Cygnus” which revealed issues.

The-then Chief Medical officer told the World Innovation Summit for Health in December 2016 that the UK “could not cope with the excess bodies” and had “inadequate ventilation” in its hospitals, he said.

Dr Lee added: “Yet this doesn’t seem to have made any difference to our subsequent planning.”

“Serious questions need to be asked of the ministers and civil servants responsible for acting on the findings of that 2016 exercise.

“Who was in charge of getting us ready for a pandemic (something we knew was a top risk), and what went wrong?

“What was done to improve intelligence-gathering from places like China, where novel viruses appear more often?

“Why did the Government not act in January, when we first knew we had a problem?

“This pandemic was always going to be challenging; it has been made worse by the government’s failings.”

Ministers have been frantically asking companies to start making ventilators and other equipment ready for a surge in cases in the coming weeks.

An NHS worker wearing required protective equipment, including a mask, gloves and a visor


And despite packing off 170million bits of kit to hospitals, GP surgeries and care homes, some say they still don’t have enough.

Dr Siema Iqbal told BBC News this morning: “I don’t have any visors, I don’t have a face shield or goggles.

“I should have a full-sleeved gown if I’m following the guidance by the World Health organisation.

“It’s frightening – I’m putting myself at risk and potentially risking myself becoming ill and not being able to help others, as well as bringing that risk home to family and young children that I have at home.”

Ministers have promised that millions of bits of kit have been sent out, and more are on the way.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said this morning the true scale of the crisis was at fault.

He told the BBC “we have never faced anything like this”.
And he added: “We have a military operation to help to distribute this kit.

“It is so important to get the PPE (personal protection equipment) out as quickly as possible…

“It’s down to the scale of this thing which can’t be stressed enough – this is not normal times.”

A hotline has been set up for NHS hospitals to call and say what kit they need to “try and make sure the gaps are filled as soon as possible”.

And it will be discussed at Cabinet this morning too, which Boris Johnson will chair via video-link.

Scientists have produced a day-by-day breakdown of the typical Covid-19 symptoms