“There’s clearly more to do to make sure every single person who needs it gets the PPE that they need,” Hancock told BBC radio.
The British Medical Association (BMA), which represents doctors, said current supplies in London and Yorkshire, in northern England, were insufficient, and doctors faced a “heart-breaking” decision over whether to treat patients without proper protection and so put themselves at risk.
“It is absurd that the people trained to treat this disease are the ones who are not being appropriately protected – and without them, we face real disaster,” said Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the BMA council chair.
Among the 9,000 people with COVID-19 who have died in British hospitals are 19 NHS workers, including 11 doctors. Hancock said the government was not aware of any link between the deaths and a shortage of equipment.
Nagpaul said: “It’s unclear whether the lack of PPE is directly linked to the recorded deaths of doctors so far, but we know that no healthcare workers have been infected in a hospital in Italy precisely because their PPE supplies are sufficient and of high-quality.”