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Furlough rules are needlessly preventing thousands of HGV drivers from delivering personal protective equipment (PPE) to millions of nurses and doctors, according to the RHA.

The association was responding to claims made by health secretary Matt Hancock that a “mammoth logistical exercise” was to blame for delays in getting PPE to frontline staff.

Speaking on BBC 1’s Question Time, Hancock said: “We do have the supplies, we have a massive supply in an enormous warehouse in the north west.

“The quantity of the stuff is not the problem in PPE. The challenge is getting it to every single one of the 1.4m NHS staff and the over two million social care staff.

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“It is a huge logistical exercise. Getting kit out of the warehouse and onto the hands and onto the face of every single nurse who needs it, every single doctor; it’s one of the biggest logistical challenges in peacetime.”

But Richard Burnett, RHA chief executive, said there were thousands of drivers not working who were ready to answer the call.

He said: “Haulage professionals are only too willing to deliver vital PPE which will save lives but their hands are tied as current furlough rules would mean truckers could face financial penalties if they took on the work.

“It’s time the government passed legislation to free up the haulage industry to deliver the equipment which will protect health workers and the patients who rely on them.”

The RHA estimates that around 43% of trucks are currently parked up while 25% of drivers are furloughed.