Thursday 30 April 2020

The NHS blame game

On Monday, the BBC's Panorama attacked the government for failing to provide NHS workers with enough personal protective equipment. Perhaps the government has as a case to answer, but Panorama didn't produce evidence that it does. The shortcomings it identified involved the NHS and Public Health England, but apparently these organisations can never fail the public. They can only be failed by the government.

I've written about this for the IEA blog:

One of the programme’s main allegations was that “the government” took COVID-19 off the list of High Consequence Infectious Diseases (HCID) in March 2020, thereby allowing “the government” to weaken the guidelines on PPE use. This, it suggested, was because “the government” had failed to buy enough PPE to go round.

But the decision to take COVID-19 off the HCID list was not made by politicians. It was made by Public Health England and their equivalents in the rest of the UK, with the Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens in agreement. The guidelines on PPE use by health workers may have been “weakened”, but the guidelines are set by Public Health England, not politicians. And the procurement of face masks, gloves and gowns is not the personal responsibility of Boris Johnson or Matt Hancock, but of officials in the NHS and Public Health England.

Far be it for me to defend the government, but in the absence of any evidence that politicians actively discouraged stockpiling of PPE, it seems to me that at least some of the blame for the shortage should be laid at the door of the people working in procurement at multi-billion pound organisations who are specifically tasked with stockpiling it. But no, let’s just blame “the government”.

Do read it all.

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