THE UK Health Secretary has been attacked for insulting health care workers by urging them to treat protective equipment such as masks and gloves as a “precious resource”.

The comments were made by Matt Hancock during a government briefing on Friday, when he stated there was enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to go round in England – but only if it was used within guidelines.

He went on: “We need everyone to treat PPE like the precious resource it is, that means only using it when there is a clinical need and not using more than is needed.”

Yesterday it emerged 19 UK health workers have now died after contracting coronavirus.

Hancock’s remarks sparked fury from UK health unions, amid an ongoing row about a failure to supply enough PPE equipment to workers on the frontline.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford described Hancock’s comments as “simply insulting”. He tweeted: “PPE is not a precious resource it is essential protection for those on the frontline who are treating sick patients and involved in herculean efforts to keep us safe.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Scotland could diverge from rest of UK’s plan

Dame Donna Kinnair, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said no PPE was “more precious a resource than a healthcare worker’s life, a nurse’s life, a doctor’s life”.

She added: “I take offence actually that we are saying that healthcare workers are abusing or overusing PPE. I think what we know is: we don’t have enough supply and not enough regular supply of PPE.”

The BMA medical union warned on Friday that PPE supplies in London and Yorkshire in particular are at “dangerously low levels”.

Rehana Azam, GMB national officer, said the number of deaths of NHS workers was “beyond heartbreaking”. Azam added: “PPE is not a precious resource, it is an absolute necessity to protect lives.

“GMB is deeply concerned about any implication that NHS workers are responsible for the failures of the Government to properly protect our protectors.”

Concerns have also been raised about PPE supplies in Scotland, with doctors and health unions highlighting the issue last week.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said it was determined that all staff get the right PPE. They said: “While we currently have adequate supplies for the level of demand, we are working constantly to ensure this continues to be the case. This includes pressing current suppliers to increase production levels, identifying new suppliers, and undertaking active and speedy due diligence on any new suppliers coming forward.

“Over the last few weeks over 60 million items of PPE have been delivered to hospitals in Scotland providing care for coronavirus cases and other conditions. Last week, eight weeks’ supply of PPE was delivered to GPs in Scotland; this supply contained facemasks, aprons, gloves and goggles in line with the UK guidance, and more than 12 million items of PPE have been distributed to that sector since the social care triage helpline launched on March 19.”

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