Milton Keynes MP admits Government made mistakes with initial coronavirus response

    A local MP has admitted that the Government made mistakes with the initial coronavirus response.

    At the start of the year, when the pandemic first began to take shape, the Government was heavily criticised for several reasons - including the lack of PPE for hospitals and care homes, and the level of mixed messaging that the public received. 

    One major issue surrounded the RAF flight from Turkey that was due to deliver 84-tonnes of vital PPE to hospitals across the UK; in April it was warned that hospitals could run out and some doctors even threatened they would stop treating patients. 

    The public was told that the flight was in the air, but it was not, and eventually when it did arrive it was found the PPE was not up to UK standards, deeming it "useless".

    Ben Everitt, MP for Milton Keynes North, was quizzed during an MKFM Q&A Broadcast about these mistakes. 

    He admitted: "We won't have got everything right, absolutely not. We are learning new stuff about the virus every day and certainly our response to it is informed by the data and the scientific advice as much as possible. But this is a global pandemic, it is entirely new and everybody is doing what they can to keep the show on the road."

    Ben Everitt MP was then asked about the biggest mistake the Government has made. "That's a really good question," he paused, "The real challenge that we have had over the course of this is the communications."

    Darren, from the MK Breakfast Show, was hosting the interview and continued to list some examples - these included PPE, the RAF flight, track and trace, mixed messaging, and how numbers have been reported.

    Ben Everitt MP added that the RAF flight was a "real problem because people needed hope at that point. They needed to know that PPE was on the way. Nobody could have predicted this time last year that we would need that amount of PPE for our care sector, and for the NHS.

    "The comms around that didn't work, and despite the fact that 99.5% of all the PPE that we have got in this country has been useable, when the plane did get here and that batch was not useable it looked really bad and it gave the impression that they weren't in as control as they were."

    Ben Everitt proceeded to discuss the previous sheer lack of PPE in Milton Keynes, commenting: "On the PPE this is a really good point at which I should say that in Milton Keynes, and in Thames Valley in particular, we played an absolute blinder. I remember reading the Financial Times and the headline was 'Britain is three days away from no PPE at all' and I thought, do you know what, in Thames Valley we were about three hours away at one point in the Spring. If it wasn't for the quick thinking of Thames Valley Police blue lighting items of PPE between hospitals in their police cars, we would have had a serious problem."

    During the interview, he also highlighted the number of ways that organisations could get PPE back in the Spring, after it was mentioned that Milton Keynes Council had to buy their own. Ben Everitt put this down to the global shortage, new suppliers racing to make more, and extreme price increases which he says was an "extremely complicated and fraught" situation for all.

    MKFM also asked about the fact that at one point the UK had the highest death rate in Europe, to which Ben Everitt recognised the tragedy, and commented that it seems countries are no longer comparing death rates as it seems they are all experiencing different waves of the virus. 

    But it seems Ben Everitt's recognition of the Government's mistakes lies with the communication, or lack there of. 

    "The main challenges have been the comms issues that you talked about, getting the messaging right when actually the data and the advice from the scientists changes every single day. What kind of consistent messaging could we have? And how do we best give those pieces of advice over to the public? 

    "What could have gone better is getting that messaging tighter, but that is one thing that we've learnt. Going into the peak winter, where we know the virus spreads more in the cold and in the damp, where people are inside close together, that is going to be really important - hands, face, space."

    © MKFM News 2020 

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