Hospitals risk running out of PPE again, ministers told

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PPE supplies a ‘big concern’ as hospitals begin to offer more services and outpatient appointments

NHS hospitals are restarting procedures and operations Credit: Paul Grover

Hospitals could face fresh shortages of personal protective equipment as they restart outpatient appointments and operations, senior procurement officials have warned, as they called for urgent new guidance to prepare the NHS for increased use of masks by patients, visitors and staff.
Mark Roscrow, chairman of the Health Care Supply Association (HCSA), which represents NHS procurement teams, warned of a “big concern” about the impact on PPE supplies as hospitals begin to “turn services back on” from the current “lull” that has followed last month’s peak of Covid-19 cases.
While some hospitals are offering masks to patients and visitors, there is currently no “consistency of approach” and Public Health England needed to issue new guidelines to help to predict the amount of PPE that will be needed once hospitals resume routine work with social distancing in place,” Mr Roscrow said.
The intervention comes after NHS England told hospitals to restart routine surgery and procedures. A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “The safety of our staff is paramount and we will continue to take an evidence-based approach for the use of PPE.
Public Health England has already laid out guidance for PPE in different settings and we are working around the clock to increase stock and ensure PPE is delivered as quickly as possible to where it is needed on the frontline.”
But the HCSA’s warning follows calls by hospitals and health unions for the Government to ensure an adequate supply of PPE before such work is resumed: “We’re going to have to get PPE and testing into a place from where they currently are to restart. We’re asking trusts to deal with all of this alongside testing a stream of Covid patients while retaining a surge capacity.”
Some of the district nurses at Coed Celyn Hospital, who have received additional training on self testing their PPE equipment
PPE supplies have been a contentious subject during the coronavirus crisis Credit: Getty Images
The fourth of Boris Johnson’s five tests for significantly easing the lockdown measures is ensuring adequate supplies of PPE to meet future demand. The test has proved the most difficult to meet following worldwide shortages of items such as protective gowns, and some types of masks, and the Government has faced embarrassing episodes such as a much-vaunted shipment from Turkey that turned out to contain gowns falling short of UK standards.
Mr Roscrow said: “We’re in a lull a bit for Covid, so as the numbers are coming down and in a much more stable position, and therefore there are conversations about starting to turn services back at the various level, there is a big concern about the impact of that on PPE.” Trying to reflect that in the model is going to be a challenge, to say the least.
“What we’re not clear on is the volume of PPE that’s going to go into this.The change is likely to create sudden spikes in demand in some areas of the country, as services are resumed, and the need for more significant volumes of some types of PPE,” Mr Roscrow added.
Author: By Edward Malnick, Sunday Political Editor