Plane carrying first consignment of medical equipment from Turkey arrives in the UK

An RAF aircraft has landed in the UK with a delayed delivery of personal protective equipment (PPE) from Turkey amid a row over a shortage in the NHS.

Healthcare workers on the frontline of the coronavirus outbreak are increasingly reporting shortages of gear.

Ministers had promised the shipment, which was supposed to include 400,000 protective gowns, would arrive in the UK on Sunday and again on Monday, but the supplies only started clearing Turkish customs late on Tuesday.

Turkey insisted that it was not responsible for the hold-ups, with reports that some export permissions were sought by the UK as late as Monday – after UK ministers had made repeated public statements saying the shipment was imminent.

The flight arrived at RAF Brize Norton in the early hours of Wednesday morning and is believed to contain up to about half of the promised kit.

The plane had been dispatched from the Oxfordshire base, where two other planes were on stand-by to pick up further kit from Turkey, late on Monday.

It is not clear exactly what supplies the flight contained and no clear reason was given for the delay.

The government has been criticised over its failure to ensure NHS staff treating coronavirus patients have the protective equipment they need.

Ministers insisted they were pursuing “every possible option” to secure additional kit but said that, with unprecedented worldwide demand, the situation is “very challenging”.

On Monday, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said the flight had been delayed by problems in Turkey.

There are also reports that a commercial supplier in Turkey did not have enough stock to fulfil an order for 84 tonnes of protective equipment Turkish officials claimed.

However, Turkey's ambassador to the UK, Umit Yalcin, said his government only learned about the deal with a private company on Sunday and insisted it had done everything to help. He said that as far as he was aware there were problems with the private supplier company. "Turkey is cooperating with the UK authorities to find a quick solution for the UK's urgent needs.

"Turkey helped the UK by donating 250,000 pieces of personal protective equipment last week

and this time again Turkey is trying to help the UK authorities to resolve this commercial issue."

Meanwhile, the government is facing further questions regarding the time it took to join an EU scheme to buy medical equipment in bulk - including potentially life-saving ventilators, protective equipment and testing kit - that could be used to tackle the coronavirus.