PAC report rightly highlights lessons to be learned on PPE
10 February 2021
- The public accounts committee has published a report on government procurement and supply of personal protective equipment (PPE).
- The report recommends that the Department of Health and Social care improves it approach to managing and distributing stocks of PPE.
- The report also focuses on the experiences of provider organisations and frontline staff during the first wave of the pandemic.
Responding to the public accounts committee (PAC) report on government procurement and supply of PPE, the chief executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, said:
"As this report rightly highlights, it was very difficult to secure PPE at the start of the pandemic, due to a huge rise in global demand. We agree that there are important lessons to be learned, particularly around what to keep in stockpiles, and ensuring supply and distribution lines are robust.
Trusts played a key role in helping to overcome the logistical challenges surrounding PPE in the first wave, for example through mutual aid with neighbouring partners.Chief Executive
"Trusts played a key role in helping to overcome the logistical challenges surrounding PPE in the first wave, for example through mutual aid with neighbouring partners. They worked closely with the government and national bodies to identify and overcome obstacles, and to establish a better supply and distribution pathway.
"PPE supplies are now much improved, including in social care settings, where the situation was worst. UK manufacturing efforts have been successful, and it is important that these continue to ensure sustainability of future supplies. It is also vital that there is clear communication on national and local PPE stocks and requirements, and sufficient funding for public health protection and disease control.
"Staff wellbeing is an absolute priority for trust leaders. That means doing all they can to ensure staff have the right equipment to do their jobs safely. While no trust ever fully ran out of PPE, as far as we are aware, this was often a close call in the first wave. This, in addition to the lack of data on stock levels and unpredictable deliveries, made it difficult for trust leaders to plan ahead.
"Trusts have worked tirelessly to follow national guidance on PPE. However we know that there have been instances where staff have felt that their trust should have adopted a higher level of protection, above and beyond the guidance.
While changes in PPE usage guidance were clarified by Public Health England, the slow pace and less than fully effective form of communicating these changes often damaged the confidence of frontline staff.Chief Executive
"While changes in PPE usage guidance were clarified by Public Health England, the slow pace and less than fully effective form of communicating these changes often damaged the confidence of frontline staff. This has improved, and it is vital that there is transparent communication on any change, or lack of change, to help raise confidence levels among frontline staff.
"COVID-19 has highlighted pre-existing health inequalities, and we welcome the focus in this report on the experiences of Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff. We support the PAC's call for better understanding the experience of frontline staff during the first wave of the pandemic, and would welcome the opportunity to inform this work."