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Coronavirus: Call for clarity after Scottish Government joins UK-wide scheme to co-ordinate equipment procurement — but also plans to go it alone

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Nicola Sturgeon has been urged to clarify how the Scottish Government intends to procure ventilators and coronavirus testing kits, after MSPs were left “confused” by her new strategy.

The First Minister announced this afternoon that Scotland would be taking part in a UK-led scheme to buy more life-saving equipment, but then said that the Scottish Government would continue “its own” procurement process.

The comment caused concern, as the scheme was set up after it emerged NHS Wales and NHS England were competing against each other for the same equipment.

The idea of a UK-led approach was that equipment could be bulk bought and distributed faster on a “need basis” across the whole nation.

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, announcing the scheme to the Welsh Assembly earlier this week, said: “We don’t want to be competing with one another for scarce resources. Working together with colleagues in Scotland, Northern Ireland and England gives us some resilience in the system.”

Ms Sturgeon, at a press conference this afternoon, insisted that the Scottish Government will continue to do its “own procurement of ventilators and testing kits”, with the UK scheme providing “additional” support.

Some fear that the policy could see NHS boards in England and Scotland competing in the same way as before.

We don’t want to be competing with one another for scarce resources. Working together with colleagues in Scotland, Northern Ireland and England gives us some resilience in the system.”

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford

Tory health spokesman Miles Briggs MSP said: “There is obviously confusion about how equipment is being procured for Scotland.

“The UK Government have been in constructive talks with the devolved administrations. We all want to make sure there is enough for everyone.

“If there is a separate scheme for Scotland, I would appreciate some clarity from the First Minister about how that will work. All the nations of the UK need to work together to fight coronavirus.”

Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon MSP added: “This should not be a tug of war between two governments about who is doing what – it’s vital that the right strategy is in place and that decisive action is taken to increase testing capacity and help save lives. ”

Lib Dem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “This is not a time to see both of Scotland’s governments locking horns.

“After all, the coronavirus crisis does not stop at any border. This is a time to work together, including with our European neighbours, to pursue all avenues to acquire lifesaving ventilators. The First Minister must set our her plans in that spirit.”

The Scottish Government were asked to clarify the situation and directed us back to Ms Sturgeon’s comments at today’s press conference, in which she said: “It’s not one or the other, the four nations, four country approach as we’re taking part in are over and above our own procurement.”

Coronavirus: How will Scotland source the ventilators needed to treat expected surge in patients?

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