Scotland and Wales concerned over reports England is prioritised for coronavirus PPE | World news

Scottish and Welsh ministers have voiced significant concerns amid reports – denied by Downing Street – that the NHS in England is being prioritised for supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) over other nations.

Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said that it would be “unconscionable and unacceptable” if supplies were being diverted from one part of the UK to another “without consultation or any sense of cooperation”.

She was responding to reports that leading manufacturers of PPE were refusing to send supplies to Scotland because they were prioritising England.

Donald Macaskill, chief executive of Scottish Care, the sector’s umbrella body, claimed that the UK’s four largest PPE suppliers said they were not distributing to Scotland because their priority was going to be “England, the English NHS and then English social care providers”.

The Welsh health minister, Vaughan Gething, also revealed on Tuesday that he had raised the issue of PPE providers allegedly refusing to deal with Welsh care home suppliers, calling for rules to be drawn up to make sure equipment was shared out fairly.

Speaking to reporters at her daily briefing, Sturgeon accepted that she had no clear evidence that supplies were being diverted at the direction of NHS England, but said she was seeking assurances.

The UK government insisted that it had not instructed any company to prioritise PPE for any one nation. A spokesperson said: “Through this four-nation approach, we’re working closely with the devolved administrations to coordinate the distribution of PPE evenly across the UK.”

Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, told the Downing Street press conference: “There’s no truth in those stories, that those companies had been told to prioritise PPE equipment. Rather, the contrary is actually happening … there has been incredibly close collaboration between our four nations in this regard.”

Prof Yvonne Doyle, of Public Health England, said the agency “has not, in any sense, directed any of the devolved administrations to be at any disadvantage”.

But Macaskill later dismissed this, saying: “In practice we have a number of organisations telling us that their traditional producers are no longer supplying to Scotland because they are supplying the NHS, which of course goes into the four nations’ supply, but it effectively means they are disadvantaged because that’s not coming to individual care homes.”

He said on Tuesday afternoon that, after initial reports, a range of organisations had come forward to provide “good evidence” that manufacturers were either telling them that they were not able to supply to Scotland or charging vastly elevated prices to deliver north of the border, adding: “It’s a real dog’s breakfast.”

In Wales, Gething said supply chains for PPE around the world were collapsing. He said: “More countries are looking to pursue more PPE. That’s changed the availability and the price. All governments within the UK are looking to acquire more PPE. Orders from England are helping to crowd out the market that is constricted in any event.

“At the last meeting of health ministers at the end of last week, I made very clear that while that is the right thing to do we need assurances that there will be fairness in the delivery of that and that requires some operational rules. I did raise examples of where companies have told suppliers in Wales they would not deal with them.

“If we’re going to have a UK-wide purchasing arrangement … then we’ve got to be able to understand that those arrangements that are in place, that we will get a proper population share.”

Later in the day, the Scottish health secretary, Jeane Freeman, confirmed she had spoken to her UK counterpart, Matt Hancock, who had assured her that neither Public Health England nor the Department for Health and Social Care had asked for existing supplies of PPE to be diverted to the NHS or care sector in England.

A Scottish government spokesperson added: “However, as a company involved publicly claim that they have received such instructions to divert, and care providers in Scotland have reported continued problems, the cabinet secretary has written to Mr Hancock to specifically request that he resolve the situation and ensure that supplies can be ordered by and provided to domiciliary and care homes in Scotland and Wales.”

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