Scottish fashion designer Patrick Grant says father died due to PPE shortages | Coronavirus
The Scottish fashion designer Patrick Grant has said his father died “very unnecessarily” due to personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages during the Covid pandemic.
Grant’s father, James, had been a manager of the Scottish pop rock band Marmalade as well as an accountant and rugby coach.
The judge of The Great British Sewing Bee told BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs that the government at the time was “running this catastrophically shambolic programme to try and manage PPE supplies into the NHS”.
The Savile Row tailor, 51, told presenter Lauren Laverne: “My dad died of Covid very, very early on, very unnecessarily, because there was no PPE in the hospital.
“He’d gone into hospital [in March 2020] for a pretty routine operation, caught Covid in hospital and died three days later.”
He added: “[I] remember [talking] to somebody in the Cabinet Office, I went to them early on and said: ‘Look, there are loads and loads of people who can sew at home. We’ve got very limited sewing capacity in the UK but hospitals need scrubs and gowns.
“‘There are a million sewing machines in homes around the UK, lots of them want to help, there are lots of also empty factories with cutting capacity, we can get the fabric, we can cut it centrally, distribute it to home sewers.’
“They [the Cabinet Office] said: ‘Oh health and safety, we wouldn’t’ and I’m like: ‘It’s a pair of scrubs, like there are doctors wearing pyjamas’ … [I was told]: ‘We would have to sign off every individual sewer through health and safety.’ I was like: ‘You’ve all lost your minds.’”
While choosing a “lovely song” called Get Better by Alt-J, which he said was about “struggling with the loss of a loved one”, Grant became emotional and broke down.
He said: “It’s a beautiful song. Of course it brings back memories of my dad and it’s also, it’s kind of uplifting, because we will get through.”
Grant also recalled the “absolutely awful” time he took over the Cookson & Clegg textile factory before it entered a period of voluntary liquidation.
He said: “I had to make everybody redundant, and I scrambled to find the money to buy the machinery back from the liquidators and we managed to come to an arrangement with our landlord and all of our suppliers got paid and we made sure that everything was good and got it up and running.
“It was horrifying, my dad was made redundant so I saw it from that side. It’s traumatic, in a very real way for people and having to do it en masse to all of those people was dreadful.
“We took them all back. Fortunately, that second time around it went better until Covid.”
Grant founded the fashion brand Community Clothing, which promises to use the “best natural materials in the very best factories right here in the UK”.
He added that it has become difficult for factories to find skilled staff as people in the past would have followed their parents or grandparents into a workplace.
Grant said: “I think that is because for decades now we have undersold the idea of skilled manual work, both Conservative and Labour governments have, I think, made it the case that sort of skilled manual work feels like second-class work and I think that’s completely wrong. You can make a great career in our industry.”
A government spokesperson said: “The government acted swiftly to procure PPE at the height of the pandemic.
“We ordered over 30bn items during the initial response – and we have delivered over 25bn items of PPE to frontline staff and other eligible users to keep them safe.”
Grant’s episode on Desert Island Discs will air on BBC Radio 4 at 11.15am on Sunday.