POLITICS
14/04/2020 14:14 BST | Updated 14/04/2020 16:03 BST

Nicola Sturgeon: 'Unacceptable' If England Getting Coronavirus PPE Over Rest Of UK

Downing Street denies manufacturers are refusing to send supplies and says the UK is taking a "four-nation approach".

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Nicola Sturgeon has said it would be “unconscionable and unacceptable” if England were getting priority of personal protective equipment (PPE). 

The first minister hit out after reports in the Times suggested manufacturers were diverting PPE to England and refusing to supply the NHS and care homes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

The SNP leader said “a source of real worry” was ensuring there was enough PPE for Scottish care homes and that her ministers would probe the issue with the UK government.

At a press briefing on Tuesday, Sturgeon said: “I want to be clear about my view, and I hope that no one thinks this is in any way a point of a political nature, it is a point about fairness and co-operation as all of us deal with the challenge of this virus.

“All parts of the UK are facing supply challenges on PPE, indeed this is a global issue, so any situation where supplies were being diverted from one part of the UK to the other without consultation or any sense of co-operation would clearly be unconscionable and unacceptable.”

Downing Street has denied that England was being treated any differently and the Department of Health and Social Care has insisted that supplies were co-ordinated at a UK level.

WPA Pool via Getty Images
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon 

Scottish health secretary Jeane Freeman later tweeted that she had received assurances from her UK counterpart Matt Hancock that “neither NHS England nor PHE (Public Health England) asked suppliers to divert PPE orders from Scotland”. 

Boris Johnsons’s official spokesman reacted to the row saying there was a “four-nation approach” to PPE supplies. 

He said: “Our PPE strategy is UK-wide in making sure that frontline workers in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have the PPE they needed 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.” 

Speaking on the Good Morning Scotland programme on Tuesday, the Scottish government’s national clinical director said there was a coordinated effort across the UK to distribute PPE.

He said: “We have looked into it and we think it’s rubbish.

“So the companies, and our colleagues at NHS England yesterday when we spoke to them, said it wasn’t true.

“There’s another element of this though, that the English route for PPE is one of three routes that Scotland has access to PPE from.

“So we are in a four-country fight against this virus. Honestly, people might not believe me, but that four-countries’ fight is pretty aligned.”