Manufacturers of protective equipment opt to bypass official channels and sell direct

Dozens of frustrated UK companies that responded to the government’s request to switch production towards personal protective equipment have abandoned efforts to deal with Westminster and are selling kit directly to British healthcare institutions and overseas. From cosmetics bottle makers to waste bag manufacturers, businesses have repurposed factories and bought new equipment to help the National Health Service battle coronavirus. But, despite health chiefs and care homes across the country reporting huge PPE shortages, many in the industry said they felt ignored by central government and described the procurement process as shambolic. Their actions come as Downing Street became further embroiled in a spat with Brussels about why the UK did not take part in an EU-wide PPE procurement scheme. On Tuesday, health secretary Matt Hancock said the government was working with 159 potential British manufacturers to increase PPE production. But during Wednesday’s prime minister’s questions, Labour leader Keir Starmer brandished a list of 36 companies that he said had offered PPE to the government and been ignored.