Chancellor Rishi Sunak faced questions over whether companies have been asked to prioritise PPE for NHS England during the coronavirus crisis after SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said they would investigate the reports. Mr Sunak branded the claims “rubbish”. Katherine Samson from STV asked: “Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said at her press conference this afternoon that she wants assurances that Scottish care workers aren’t going to lose out on PPE after reports companies have been told to prioritise NHS England. Could you please confirm with me no company has been told to do this by PHE and will you be investigating it further?”
At this difficult time for frontline doctors and nurses, sign up here to show your support now to our brave NHS Heroes.
Speaking at Downing Street, Mr Sunak said: “I think if you look at what the national clinical director in Scotland said earlier today he said, ‘We’ve looked into it and we do think it’s rubbish’.
“Those were his words, not mine. I would say from our perspective there has been incredibly close, coordinated action across our public health bodies to make sure we have a four-nation approach to all of this.
“There is no truth to those stories that companies have been told to prioritise the NHS for PPE.”
Ms Sturgeon branded the claims “clearly unacceptable” in a press conference earlier today as she launched an investigation into the reports.
READ MORE: Coronavirus symptoms: Woman describes emotional effects of the virus
Rishi Sunak branded the claims PPE is prioritised to the NHS as ‘rubbish’
There are reports PPE is being diverted from Scotland to NHS England
She said: “Our Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, is raising this matter with Matt Hancock, the UK Health Secretary, and is seeking to speak to him directly about that.
“I hope no one thinks this is in any way a point of political nature, it is a point about fairness and cooperation as all of us deal with the challenge of this virus.
“Any situation where supplies were being diverted from one part of the UK to another without consultation or cooperation would clearly be unacceptable.
“That is why we are seeking to investigate these issues further and to address them as quickly as possible.”
Rishi Sunak said the claims have no truth to them
The SNP leader noted Scotland’s stockpile has not been affected by the claims but she will continue to monitor it closely.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said she was urgently seeking clarity around the situation and intended to speak with her UK counterpart Matt Hancock but he cancelled the phone call.
She said she wrote to him to “remind him that he specifically does not have my agreement to the centralisation of ordering or distribution of PPE”.
A spokesman for the UK Health Secretary said Mr Hancock was unable to make the call at the proposed time due to another pre-planned meeting.
Martin Lewis confirms key rule around self-employed savings [INSIGHT]
EU’s disease prevention body admits they got it wrong on coronavirus [INSIGHT]
Laura Kuenssberg asks ‘can we really shake off’ financial pain [VIDEO]
Later, a rearranged meeting between Mr Hancock and health ministers of the devolved Governments took place, with Ms Freeman saying in a tweet that she was grateful for the “assurance that neither NHS England nor PHE asked suppliers to divert PPE orders from Scotland”.
Responding to the First Minister’s remarks, Downing Street said it has not instructed any company to prioritise one part of the UK over another.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Our PPE strategy is UK-wide, making sure that front-line workers in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have the PPE they need to stay protected while taking care of patients.
“Through this four-nation approach we are working closely with the devolved administrations to coordinate the distribution of PPE evenly across the UK. We have not instructed any company to prioritise PPE for one nation over the others.”