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Amendment 1

Part of Coronavirus Bill - Committee – in the House of Lords at 12:06 pm on 25th March 2020.

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Photo of Baroness McDonagh Baroness McDonagh Labour 12:06 pm, 25th March 2020

My Lords, I want to speak in favour of Amendments 1 and 2, and later Amendment 6, which I think is trying to do the same thing. Like my noble friend Lady Thornton, I was struck by the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, yesterday when she talked about the suspension of the Care Act, and the NICE regulations. We have to review how these are going to work in practice. I know that the Government are dealing with something that is moving very quickly, but often, having heard an announcement that sounds great, we look at the detail and find that the announcement and what happens in practice are two different things. One issue that my noble friend Lady Thornton’s amendment would allow us to review is the protective equipment and clothing of local authority staff in social care environments and, more broadly, the health service.

I want to make one specific point on this. In the last week, I have been contacted by many medical staff and charities. These fears are very broad. Many of us will have heard or read the recommendations from the Zhejiang University School of Medicine about protective clothing. I do not understand why the Government and NHS England have chosen not to procure those uniforms and protective clothing when there is now substantial evidence on this.

Doctors read data. They can see the data from Italy, where one type of protective clothing was used, and compare the number of fatalities there with the number in China. Will the Minister ask for some independent assessment of the protective clothing that we are using? The Government changed their stance on this only when independent universities produced data to show that modelling on the spread of the virus was wrong. I think the Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Scientific Officer have to put this out for independent study, because it is perfectly possible for us to procure this clothing now. This pandemic is costing the country billions. A cost that equates to $10 per shift is perfectly affordable when lives are at risk.