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Cornish MP claims NHS staff have sufficient protective equipment

Cornish MP claims NHS staff have sufficient protective equipment

Published by Sarah Yeoman at 8:05am 3rd April 2020.

Written by Richard Whitehouse, Local Democracy Reporter

An MP in Cornwall has been accused of “rank hypocrisy” after she claimed that NHS staff tackling the coronavirus have sufficient equipment to keep them safe.

Sheryll Murray, Conservative MP for South East Cornwall, declined to lobby the government to improve the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) after a request from a constituent.

Fleur Young had emailed her MP after being inspired by the national “clap for the NHS” which saw people all over the country, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, joining together to applaud the efforts of health workers during the crisis.

Ms Murray herself had also promoted the clap for the NHS on her Facebook page.

Having heard the concerns raised by NHS staff about the lack of PPE being provided to health workers Mrs Young decided to ask Ms Murray to help.

However she was shocked when she received a reply from the MP which simply stated “NHS staff have sufficient replies (sic)” – despite the typo the MP meant “supplies”.

Fleur said: “I wrote to Sheryll because I’d been so moved by the national ‘clap for the NHS’ which I took part in, but I was also shocked by the response of doctors and nurses on social media the very next morning. My Twitter feed was full of things like, ‘thanks for the appreciation folks but really, at this point, we’d just like some proper PPE’. I couldn’t believe they were still being sent into the front line without adequate protection after all the promises that Prime Minister Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock had made. I know MPs look at their ‘post bags‘ and that if a sufficient number of constituents write to them on an issue they take note and try to influence things.

“I expected a bland, pro-forma response, crafted and drafted in Conservative Central Office saying something along the lines of ‘the government is working incredibly hard to make sure all NHS and other care workers get the PPE they need…blah blah blah’.

“However, I was stunned by the reply that I got. Quite apart from the – autocorrect? – typo, the dismissive tone which didn’t even acknowledge there was a problem really upset me. Even Matt Hancock had said there had been issues in the supply chain.

“It was in that sense of incredulity, upset and frustration that I posted a screenshot to Facebook. How could any MP be so contemptuous of an issue so significant to the health and well-being of front-line health-sector workers only hours after a call for national applause for their heroism? It felt like rank hypocrisy and I wanted others to know.”

Fleur Young, constituent 

Dozens of people commented on the post and couldn’t believe the response from the MP – some even thought it was fake.

Asked about the response by the Local Democracy Reporting Service Ms Murray said:

“I am unable for reasons of confidentiality to respond to specific casework matters but am busy trying to keep constituents up to date as best as I can.

“In this difficult situation the Government have ramped up delivery of personal protective equipment to our frontline medical staff so they are fully equipped to tackle coronavirus. This week, the Army will offer its support, with service personnel helping to deliver and distribute urgent PPE supplies, and delivery times are being extended into evenings and weekends where necessary.

“I have been assured that over the weekend more than 200 organisations, including all NHS hospitals, received fresh supplies of facemasks and other PPE along with ambulance trusts and other NHS organisations.

“I have been contacted by a number of constituents who have responded that they appreciate the information I am supplying with comments such as: that’s really good to hear, thank you.”

Sheryll Murray, MP for South East Cornwall

Earlier this week Cornwall Council called on the Government to speed up the supply of PPE to key workers in Cornwall.

"I understand that these are unprecedented times and there is a UK shortage of PPE, but I urge the government to quickly clarify how it intends to distribute this vital equipment – particularly in rural areas like Cornwall.

“Our frontline workers are doing an incredible job caring for residents who are sick or vulnerable, and we desperately need to protect them from falling ill so we can keep Cornwall running and prepare for recovery.

“We as a council have appealed for businesses across Cornwall who may be able to help us with the supply of unused PPE to get in touch, and while we greatly appreciate their support we recognise that this is not a sustainable solution.

“We still require clarification about when the government intends to make new supplies available, and how it will deliver those supplies throughout this difficult period. We will help with those distribution efforts where we can.

“I look forward to hearing more about the Government’s plans as soon as possible.”

Council leader, Julian German

“I can’t stress enough how important it is that we make sure everyone who needs PPE receives it and makes proper use of it. 

“We want to minimise the spread of coronavirus and providing key workers with the protective equipment they need is an important part of that effort.

“We know that there are issues across the country with the supply of PPE, so we’re calling on businesses here in Cornwall that may have unused stock to get in touch and let us know, so we can get it to the people who need it most.”

Cornwall Council deputy director of public health, Rachel Wigglesworth

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