MATT HANCOCK was accused of ‘gaslighting’ nurses yesterday after he claimed the country never ran out of personal protective equipment (PPE).
The health secretary (pictured top) said he would not resign after he was slammed by a High Court judge on Friday for unlawful delays in revealing how billions of pounds were spent on gowns, masks and other protective equipment at the height of the pandemic.
He told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge: ‘My officials, with my full support, spent every waking hour buying PPE so that, even though we came close, we never actually ran out of PPE in this country.
‘People can make up their own view about whether I should have told my team to stop buying PPE or whether I was right to buy the PPE and get it to the front line.
‘And they did that even though the paperwork got delayed by, on average, just over a fortnight.’
But nursing groups said hundreds of medics died after being left with flimsy, faulty and out-of-date PPE as the first wave of the virus took hold last year.
Anthony Johnson, lead organiser for Nurses United, said: ‘He thinks that he can try to gaslight millions of health and social care workers who had to re-use PPE.’ Community nurse Angela Roberts asked: ‘Why was PPE downgraded for NHS staff?
‘Why was there no PPE for care homes and community nurses except for plastic pinnies?
‘Why were nurses forced to use bloody bin bags? Out-of-date masks?’
Last year, financial watchdog the National Audit Office discovered PPE suppliers were ten times more likely to be awarded contracts if they were recommended by government officials, ministers, MPs and senior NHS staff.
Labour’s David Lammy said that Mr Hancock should explain why contracts were given to friends of ministers.
‘It’s outrageous, frankly,’ he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr.
‘This is the sort of behaviour — giving contracts to your pub landlord and your best mate — that you would expect in a banana republic.’
Green MP Caroline Lucas said health workers died because of ‘incompetence, cronyism and waste’. She tweeted: ‘How dare Hancock suggest he broke law to prevent shortages of PPE on the front line? Does he think our memories are so short?’
Health secretary’s ex-neighbour faces investigation
A FORMER neighbour of health secretary Matt Hancock is being investigated over allegedly getting £30million of work making Covid test vials without prior experience. Alex Bourne used to run The Cock Inn, near the former Thurlow home of Mr Hancock (both pictured). The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency is investigating his Hinpack firm, which previously made plastic cups. Mr Bourne has denied any wrongdoing.