Government signs deals to produce two billion pieces of PPE for NHS

26 May 2020, 21:21

Medical staff put on their personal protective equipment (PPE) at an MOT testing centre in Belfast
Medical staff put on their personal protective equipment (PPE) at an MOT testing centre in Belfast. Picture: PA

By Ewan Somerville

Ministers have signed over 100 new deals to produce two billion pieces of personal protective equipment for the NHS front line, it has been announced.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the new contracts will be a “significant boost” to the under-fire levels of gloves, visors and gowns for UK healthcare workers.

PPE has been among the most heavily criticised parts of the Government’s handling of the crisis so far, with some hospitals and care homes reporting shortages.

Read more: Third of nurses caring for coronavirus patients 'without adequate PPE'

The new deals will also bring a further 3.7 billion gloves to the front line, the DHSC said.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there had been a “mammoth effort” to create a new supply chain from scratch following a “global scramble” for PPE.

The situation with PPE is 'getting worse, not better'

“While we continue to improve the logistics and work hard to get everyone the PPE they need, these new supplies mean we’re not simply keeping up with demand, we’re now able to begin to replenish our stockpiles,” he told the Downing Street briefing.

He added: “There is a lot further to go on PPE as on so many things, but we have made significant progress and I’d like to thank everybody involved.

“PPE of course is so important because it’s about protecting the people who protect us. And we’ll do that for as long as the virus remains on these shores.”

The DHSC said GPs and care homes will get top register from this week via an online portal developed with eBay to help “ramp up” PPE supplies.

The latest order comes after the Government hailed the “very significant” shipment of 400,000 protective gowns from Turkey which eventually arrived in the UK by a fleet of RAF planes.

But it then emerged that all 400,000 gowns had failed to meet UK safety standards so were scrapped.

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On Monday, Chris Hopson, the chief executive of hospital body NHS Providers said a lack of vital PPE was hindering efforts to tackle the huge backlog of 4.2 million non-urgent operations, such as cataract removal and knee or hip replacement.

“We can’t restart NHS services as quickly as everyone would like because of the wide range of constraints trusts are facing, including shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing,” Mr Hopson told the Guardian.

“My concern about reopening the NHS is that people are massively underestimating how difficult and complex it’s going to be to restart the full range of services and levels of activity that are needed. People think it’s like flicking a light switch back on again but it absolutely isn’t."