Important lessons to learn on PPE

25 November 2020

Responding to the National Audit Office's (NAO's) report on personal protective equipment (PPE) supply, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, said:

"The NAO is right to conclude that there are important lessons to be learned in dealing with the pandemic.

“For trust leaders, ensuring the safety of patients and staff is an absolute priority.

"This report highlights severe PPE shortages - a consequence of planning for the "wrong" kind of pandemic, and the huge global surge in demand for this equipment - and although no acute trusts completely ran out, at times this was only narrowly avoided.

"The situation in other settings, in particular social care, was even worse.

"These problems were compounded by the lack of reliable data about national stock levels and unpredictable deliveries, making it extremely difficult for trust leaders to plan ahead.

"Changes in guidance on the use of PPE also damaged the confidence of frontline staff.

"Trusts played a key role in helping to overcome these challenges, for example by supporting each other and other partners with PPE supplies. They worked closely and effectively with the government and NHS national bodies to identify and address pinch-points and establish a robust supply and distribution infrastructure.

"PPE supplies are now much improved. It's important to acknowledge the success in tackling formidable logistical challenges, but it's vital that in future there is clear information on national and local PPE stocks and requirements.

"The government should commit to open and timely communication on these issues so the NHS workforce can feel confident in their safety at work."

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