A report broadcast on the 7th May by Channel 4 News about the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Plan (PIPP) contained several misleading claims.
Please find our response below.
A Government spokesperson said:
“The UK is one of the most prepared countries in the world and we have delivered more than 1 billion items of PPE since this global outbreak began.
“This is an unprecedented pandemic and we have taken the right steps at the right time to combat it, guided at all times by the best scientific advice, to protect the NHS and save lives.”
Claim – stockpile was incomplete and out of date
Every single piece of PPE deployed to the frontline from the stockpile was rigorously tested and met the high standard required.
Stocks of facemasks and FFP3 respirators along with other items of PPE are stored in controlled and monitored conditions and this means that stocks are more likely to be fit for use beyond normal expiry dates. Where appropriate, in line with HSE advice, facemasks and FFP3 respirators are independently tested to ascertain whether their shelf life can be extended. The products that pass these tests are subject to relabelling with a new shelf-life (as appropriate) and remain safe for consumption by the NHS and Social Care.
Claim – protective equipment could not be easily distributed
This is not true. The pandemic influenza stockpile has always been readily deployable. Covid-19 is not an influenza pandemic, for which the stockpile was designed, and requires different types of equipment to an influenza pandemic. Nevertheless, the stock pile has been deployed to support front line staff across health and social and there was no delay in distributing products from the pandemic influenza stockpile.
Products have been supplied in to all settings including Secondary care and primary healthcare settings defined as; GPs, Adult Social Care, Dentists and Community Pharmacies during the response to COVID-19.
Claim – size of the stockpile decreased over the past decade
This is misleading. The PIPP stockpile levels were in line with guidance from NERVTAG. The target volumes of products held in the stockpile can and do vary dependent on changes in advice and guidance, these changes of physical volumes will occur when it is appropriate to do so.
Claim – no surgical gowns were included in the stockpile despite urgent recommendations going back years
Advice on procuring gowns was received in November 2019 and the procurement process was underway in early 2020 before being interrupted by the onset of Covid-19.
Surgical gowns are a recent recommendation from NERVTAG and will be procured for inclusion in the future stockpile build up alongside all other necessary equipment