The supply of PPE is essential to staff being able to safely care for patients with suspected COVID-19 while ensuring they are personally protected. We know there have been a number of concerns raised about having enough supplies to go around. NHS England and Improvement tell us there is enough national stock overall - the issue is consistently getting that stock to the right place at the right time in the right numbers. There have been more significant national shortages in the supply of gowns, masks and visors, affecting different areas more severely at different times.
On 22 April NHS Providers published a briefing on the PPE shortages faced by NHS trusts and why they had arisen, as well as looking at the impact on wider health and care settings. We called for a sustainable solution to bridge the gap between depleting stock of existing PPE reserves and the arrival of stock ordered several weeks before.
As of 1 May, the UK government stated its commitment to ensuring PPE is procured nationally, rather than leaving trusts to obtain supplies at an organisational level. There is a standard operating procedure for the management of all critical stock which covers how stock purchased for NHS trusts are processed and issued. NHS Supply Chain teams continue to purchase stock through existing supplier relationships, and local purchase of other supplies not specifically designated for national procurement can continue as normal. When certain stocks are shown to be less in demand, they will be removed from the national allocation process.
A cross-government team is also working with companies to ramp up the manufacturing of PPE. This initiative is being led nationally by Lord Deighton, who is advising the government on PPE procurement. Recent collaborations have been established with companies including Amazon, the Royal Mint, and Jaguar Land Rover to get more PPE to healthcare workers. More than 200 potential manufacturers have been identified to increase the scale of production.
NHS Supply Chain has a specific site for PPE procurement, including updates on the availability of ICU consumables, potential offers of support, and logistical assistance. A dedicated PPE channel has also been set up which has taken over the 'push' of core PPE stock to NHS trusts. Information is available on this channel to facilitate mutual aid within sustainability and transformation partnerships.
Public Health England regularly updates its PPE guidance hub, including guidance for infection prevention and control, reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission within hospital settings, and considerations for acute PPE shortages.