Last week I took part in the regular video conference meeting for the Kent MPs with leaders of our local NHS to discuss the response to the pressures created by the coronavirus crisis. I would once again like to state my thanks to all of our NHS and care workers across the county who have done and are doing such a heroic job. As the coronavirus started to reach a crisis point last month, the overriding concern we all shared was whether or not the NHS would have the resources it required to cope, both with the needs of patients for life saving oxygen treatments and breathing support from ventilators. Our NHS operating at substantially increased capacity, has been able to meet these pressures, and from the briefings I have received, expects to continue to do so throughout this crisis. This is an outstanding achievement of both resource planning and clinical excellence. However, there is also pressure to make sure that NHS workers have the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) depending on the care setting they are working in within the health service. This has been another massive logistical challenge.
From 25 February to 16 April the Government has delivered nearly 850 million items of PPE to NHS Trusts in England. This includes approximately 132 million face masks, 142 million aprons, 1.2 million gowns, and 456 million pairs of gloves. Specifically, for the social care sector, the government has provided 7.8 million pieces of PPE to over 26,000 care settings around the country, with a further 34 million items of PPE released last week to local resilience forums. As you can imagine, the demand for PPE, much of which cannot be reused, is constant, and often requires the further sourcing of supplies not just from factories in the UK, but from around the world. I’ve been approached by local business-people with contacts who have offered to help with securing additional supplies of PPE, and I have been able to direct them to the procurement teams for both the NHS in Kent, and at the Department for Health in central government. We must continue to do all we can to make sure the NHS has the PPE supplies it needs, even if that is on a 'just in time' basis as it is required.
At the end of March I helped to launch a new service to combat harmful disinformation about the coronavirus. This is called Infotagion, and can be found online at infotagion.com and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Misleading information about the coronavirus can be deadly, and we need to isolate the lies, and check before we share information, especially if it doesn’t look right. Over the Easter weekend there was a particularly dangerous local example, where someone faked a voice message from some who supposedly worked for the South East Coast Ambulance service, claiming that because of the coronavirus, emergency 999 calls would not be answered. This kind of activity is not only malicious but could put lives at risk, and we should do all we can to check false information and warn others not to share it.