The UK government is working with over 150 British companies that could manufacture personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline NHS staff battling the coronavirus pandemic.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Tuesday that the government was working with “159 potential UK PPE manufacturers.”
The talks follow a call from the government for the private sector to step in and address the shortfall of PPE in the UK.
Hancock said the government had received 8,331 offers of help and each one was being investigated.
However, “not everyone who approached us can deliver in their offers at scale”, Hancock said. He added that not all companies were “credible,” saying the government had received some approaches from companies formed only in the last 24 hours.
The Health Secretary said the government was also in “direct talks” with overseas factories that produce PPE and the fabrics it is made of.
Hancock’s comments follow intense criticism of the government for shortages of protective equipment for frontline NHS staff. The Department of Health told NHS staff over the weekend to reuse single use PPE equipment, following shortages and supply chain issues.
The Telegraph reported on Tuesday morning that millions of pieces of PPE were still being shipped to Europe by British manufacturers. Those involved said offers of help had been ignored by the government.
Hancock said during Tuesday’s Downing Street press briefing over 1 billion items of PPE had been delivered to healthcare workers since the start of the pandemic.
He said the government was trying to get to “the source” of PPE, most of which comes from factories in Asia.
“I’ve said before, I am determined to get people the PPE they need,” Hancock said. “This is a 24/7 operation. It’s one of the biggest cross-government operations I’ve ever seen.”
The comments came as the Health Secretary confirmed 852 new deaths from COVID-19 over the last 24 hours. 129,144 have now tested positive for the virus in the UK and 17,681 remain in hospital.