Millions of face masks, gloves and aprons are being delivered to frontline healthcare workers in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government has announced.
Robert Jenrick told a Downing Street briefing on Sunday that masses of personal protective equipment (PPE) were being delivered to NHS staff – including 170 million masks.
The announcement follows concerns raised by medical professionals about a lack of protective equipment in NHS hospitals amid global shortages.
Mr Jenrick said: “We simply cannot and should not ask people to be on the frontline without the right protective equipment.
“We have a clear plan to ensure that those serving this country as this time have the right equipment.”
The Communities Secretary said the Government had established a “national supply distribution response team” – supported by the Armed Forces and other emergency services – to deliver PPE to those in need.
Among the items are some 42.8 million gloves, 13.7 million aprons, 182,000 gowns, almost 10 million items of cleaning equipment and 2.3 million pairs of eye protectors.
“All delivered to 58,000 NHS trusts and healthcare settings, including GP surgeries, pharmacies and community providers,” Mr Jenrick said.
“Every single GP practice, dental practice and community pharmacy has had a PPE delivery. All care homes, hospices, and home care providers have, or will shortly, receive a delivery.”
But the British Dental Association (BDA), which represents dentists in the UK, disputed the claim that all dental practices had received fresh supplies of PPE.
Mick Armstrong, chairman of the BDA, said: “We can do without Cabinet ministers talking about non-existent deliveries of masks to practices that have ceased all non-urgent care.
“The reality is dentists are busy fielding calls from patients in pain, but with nowhere to send them.
“Weeks have been lost that should have been spent setting up properly equipped emergency dental service.”
In a direct appeal to frontline workers, Mr Jenrick said the Government “will not stop” until healthcare settings are provided with the equipment they need.
“To NHS and social care workers, all those who rely on this equipment, and to their families and loved ones watching this afternoon, we understand and we will not stop until we have got you the equipment that you need.” he told the briefing.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma has relaxed rules so companies can fast-track the manufacture of PPE, providing it meets safety requirements.