A personal protective equipment (PPE) delivery from Turkey to the UK has been delayed, the government has said.
Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick said on Saturday that 84 tonnes of PPE would arrive on Sunday, after accepting it was in “short supply” in some areas.
A government spokesman confirmed the delay on Sunday, saying they were working “to ensure the shipment is delivered as soon as possible”.
A source told the BBC they hoped it would arrive in the coming days.
The pledge to take delivery of more PPE came after warnings that some hospitals’ intensive care units could run out of gowns over the weekend.
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said the shipment contained only “a few days’ supply” – and while it “may be enough to avert an absolute crisis over this weekend… it doesn’t solve the longer term problem”.
Public Health England changed its advice on Friday to allow the NHS to re-use gowns if stock was running low, saying “some compromise” was needed “in times of extreme shortages”.
NHS England’s medical director Prof Stephen Powis said for the guidance on the use of protective equipment to be properly followed, it was “absolutely critical above everything else that we have the supplies of PPE going out to the front line”.
But some frontline staff say they do not have the equipment they need.
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said the UK had built up stocks of PPE in expectation of a flu pandemic – as well as to prepare for the possibility of a no-deal Brexit – but he said there was a “worldwide pressure” on supplies.
However, he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr the extra resources would be coming from Turkey “this weekend”, along with another 25 million gowns, that were coming from China.
Labour’s shadow health secretary, Jon Ashworth, said “serious mistakes have been made” by the government in tackling the outbreak.
He told Sky News: “We know that our front-line NHS staff don’t have the PPE, that they’ve been told this weekend that they won’t necessarily have the gowns which are vital to keep them safe.”
The government has appointed Lord Deighton, who headed the organising committee of the London Olympics, to resolve problems with supplies and distribution of PPE.