FMQs: Claims better supplies of PPE could have saved lives of Covid health workers ‘not the case’, Nicola Sturgeon says

The Scottish Government does not take responsibility for the Covid-related deaths of any healthcare workers due to a shortage of PPE in the early stages of the pandemic, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar pointed to the latest Audit Scotland report, which found less than a day’s worth of some PPE supplies were held centrally in Scotland at points in April last year.

He said it would never be known if some of the lives of the 21 healthcare staff and 28 social care workers who lost their lives to Covid “could have been saved” if the Scottish Government had been better prepared for the pandemic.

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The Scotsman understands the party plans to follow up the issue as a matter of record in coming days.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar raised the issue of PPE shortages in the early days of the pandemic

Ms Sturgeon argued Scotland had never technically run out of PPE during the crisis and refuted Mr Sarwar’s claims that some of the deaths of frontline staff could have been avoided if the Scottish Government had been “better prepared” for the pandemic.

Mr Sarwar said: "The Scottish Government claim they did not run out of PPE - that might have been the case on the First Minister's spreadsheet, but it wasn't the reality in our hospitals and care homes.”

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He added: "In total, 21 healthcare staff and 28 social care workers have lost their lives to Covid-19 in Scotland so far. We will never know for sure if some could have been saved had the government been better prepared.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Jane Barlow/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

"We all have applauded NHS and care workers on the frontline and rightly call them heroes.

"Some of our heroes have tragically died. Their families deserve answers.

"Currently, only 27 deaths of workers across all sectors are being investigated by the Procurator Fiscal. But all of those NHS and care sector deaths should be referred to the Crown Office for a full and proper investigation to establish if their death was linked to their workplace.

"The lessons of this tragedy must be learnt."

Mr Sarwar asked: “Does the First Minister accept that is partly the consequence of her government, ignoring its own warnings and not being prepared?”

Ms Sturgeon replied: “No, I don't think that is the case, although there is much scrutiny still to come around the government's handling of this and I welcome that and think that is important.”

She added: “At no point did we not have PPE, at no point did we run out of PPE. Central stocks at some times were very low, as they would have been in any countries, given the intense global demand.

"But in terms of supply, we worked hard and, of course, there's a lot of learning already been done, and we know how domestic supply chains for that are much better than before the pandemic.

“People worked really hard to ensure we did not run out.

"Now, supply was low at times and I accept that. Mutual Aid arrangements were in place across the UK.

"At no point did Scotland have to make use of those mutual aid arrangements, but we did provide mutual aid to both England and to Wales. But we didn't have to ask anybody else for mutual aid because we did not run out of PPE.”

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