I echo the sentiments of many Members in thanking our NHS workers for the work they have done throughout this crisis and will be expected to do through the winter ahead. I want to focus on an issue that affects them very keenly: the national scrubs crisis, which leaves NHS workers without the equipment they need to do their job in fighting covid on the frontline.
In answer to a written question I asked, the Government assured me in August that
That is not the case on the ground, as I am told by so many NHS staff and by those who are sewing scrubs on a voluntary basis across the country. The Government are lying, in denial or blissfully unaware of the reality on the ground. I would like the Minister to take the time following the debate to look into the scrubs crisis, to meet the leader of the Putney scrub hub, who is a very inspiring woman, and to find out what is going on at NHS Supply Chain in order to sort this out.
It is essential that our NHS workers have enough scrubs and the right scrubs in the right size. Scrubs must be lightweight enough to be worn under other PPE, and they must not take three months to order from abroad, as they currently do, if an order can even be got in. There has been a massive increase in the need for scrubs in hospitals, clinics, care homes, prisons and now vaccination clinics. The demand for scrubs will increase at a time when we cannot even provide enough scrubs to our NHS workers. Staff are being told to go home. There is one hospital that has 500 staff and 300 scrubs, so 200 staff are being sent home because they do not have the equipment they need. Newly qualified medical staff are being told to find their own scrubs, and they cannot get hold of them.
The Putney scrub hub in my constituency, which has a highly-skilled leader, is making 15,000 scrub sets, all from a squash court in Roehampton. Those volunteers are still making those scrubs, and they want to go home. That is why I implore the Minister to look into this. The most recent orders they have had are from a psychiatric unit in West Middlesex University Hospital, from King’s College Hospital, Central Middlesex Hospital, the West London Kidney Patients’ Association—I could go on, but this demonstrates that a lot of NHS providers do not have enough scrubs.
There seems to be no central co-ordination of scrubs procurement and no national plan to deal with obvious supply issues. In July, I said that the Government needed to put this at the top of their to-do list to sort out in the summer. It has still not been sorted out, but there is time. Can the Minister address this and enable Putney scrub hub volunteers to put down their scissors and get back to their normal lives?