EAST Sussex politicians have clashed over the supply of PPE available during the coronavirus crisis.

In a statement, Cllr David Tutt, leader of Eastbourne Borough Council and the Liberal Democrat group on East Sussex County Council, criticised Lewes MP Maria Caulfield for social media comments about the supply of PPE.

The statement came after Ms Caulfield, a NHS nurse who has been working on a Covid-19 ward in recent weeks, posted on Twitter on Sunday (April 19) that her ward had ‘plenty of PPE’ available.

She wrote: “Just finished latest shift at hospital.

“Nose and ears sore from wearing masks for last 48hrs but not complaining as despite media reports we have plenty of PPE.

“Love being back working in #NHS”

The tweet saw backlash from some corners, with questions over whether the level of PPE Ms Caulfield was wearing was appropriate for someone treating a patient with coronavirus.

Ms Caulfield disputed this criticism, posting Public Health England’s guidelines in response to many accounts.

Following these exchanges, Cllr Tutt issued a statement questioning Ms Caulfield’s post, saying she was “either failing to keep herself informed or seeking to defend the government”.

He said: “I am frequently asked questions about the availability of PPE in East Sussex and have been doing my best to keep track of what is happening. 

“Whilst I am not aware of anywhere running out locally my understanding is that stocks are dangerously low and that promises of deliveries have often failed to materialise.

“Whilst I suspect that the government is well aware of this issue, I do not believe that comments reported to have been made by Lewes MP Maria Caulfield, which suggest that there is not a problem, are helpful. 

“She is either failing to keep herself informed or seeking to defend the government which has itself admitted that there is a problem.

“Clearly resolving this issue must be a key priority for the government in order to protect those on the frontline of the fight against Covid-19 who are risking their own lives to protect others.”

The Argus:

Ms Caulfield said Cllr Tutt had been seeking to ‘play politics’ with the issue.

Ms Caulfield said: “I worked the whole weekend on the ward in my hospital and we had no shortage of PPE . 

“I can only share my experience from the front line. It’s a shame the Lib Dems want to play politics with this.

“I also spoke to Dr Adrian Bull as the chief executive of the East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust (ESHT) locally and they also have all the PPE they need.”

Ms Caulfield’s comments came after Dr Bull issued a statement on behalf of the trust about the supply of PPE.

He said: “To reassure local people, we have supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) and every member of patient-facing staff has been issued with the appropriate PPE in line with Public Health England guidance.

“At the current time we have a good supply of PPE and are getting regular ‘just in time’ deliveries to help keep our staff safe. 

“The trust has not issued a formal plea for gowns. We currently have enough gowns, however, we are aware this is a national issue which we are monitoring on a daily basis.”

Last week, the Sussex Resilience Forum (SRF) appealed for residents and businesses to donate their stocks of PPE to help with the fight against Covid-19.

A multi-agency organisation, the SRF coordinates the response, resilience and recovery plans for all emergency services and local authorities and works closely with NHS teams, which report to the Department for Health (DFH).

Specifically, the organisation is seeking items including: Hand sanitiser gel (greater than 60% alcohol; CE marked disposable overshoes; hand soap; single-use fluid repellent surgical masks; and paper hand towels.

Anyone with stocks of these items are asked to get in touch at sussexresilienceforum@sussex.pnn.police.uk with the details of any items they may have.

  • The coronavirus Sussex Crisis Fund has been set up to help those affected by the pandemic. The Argus’s charity and American Express have each donated £50,000 to kick-start the appeal. Grants will usually be for up to £5,000. More information is available at www.sussexgiving. org.uk/apply. To donate visit www.totalgiving.co.uk/appeal/sussexcrisisfund