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Plan to get PPE where most needed

20 April 2020

A UK-wide plan to ensure that critical personal protective equipment (PPE) is delivered to those on the frontline responding to coronavirus (COVID-19) has been published by Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock.

The three-strand plan is designed to provide clear guidance on who needs PPE and when they need it, ensure those who need it can get it at the right time, and set out action to secure enough PPE to last through the crisis.

A full, 24/7 military operation is already underway to deal with the unprecedented, global demand for PPE as a result of this pandemic.

A new national supply and logistics network has been created from scratch in a matter of weeks to manage supply and demand across the UK, and to make sure appropriate PPE reaches those who need it.

A new website, developed with the help of the military, is being rolled out in the coming weeks to try and improve distribution and, according to Matt Hancock, will enable primary, social and community care providers in England to order critical PPE.

In addition, a new PPE hub provides access to all the government’s guidance on PPE in one place. This is in addition to a 24-hour helpline that already allows providers to request emergency drops of PPE to meet immediate need.

Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, said: "I will stop at nothing to protect those on the frontline who are fighting this virus.

"Our heroic health and care staff are working around the clock and my absolute priority is to support them. Our new online ordering tool for PPE is supported by a 24/7national supply and logistics network.

"There is a herculean effort behind the scenes, supported by the military, to get the right kit to our frontline heroes. These new supply chains, matched with a call to arms for more businesses and organisations to join this national effort, will help save lives."

Secretary of State for Scotland, Alister Jack, said: "As we tackle the coronavirus pandemic, we have never been more grateful for our health and care workers who are on the front line looking after patients.

"This UK-wide strategy will make sure these heroic workers continue to have the protection they need to stay safe as they carry out this crucial work. Backed by the UK military, it will manage supply and demand right across the country.

"We have been working closely with the Scottish Government and the other devolved administrations to make sure front linestaff right across the UK are properly protected."

The three-strand plan sets out:

  1. Guidance: being clear who needs PPE and when, and who does not, based on UK clinical expertise and WHO standards. This will ensure workers on the front line are able to do their jobs safely, while making sure PPE is only used when clinically necessary and isn’t wasted or stockpiled
  2. Distribution: making sure those who need PPE can get it and at the right time. The government will ensure those who need critical PPE receive it as quickly as possible by setting up a new national supply system
  3. Future supply: taking action to secure enough PPE to see us through the crisis. The actions being taken to ensure we have enough critical PPE to last the UK through the pandemic, working alongside industry to boost future supply. The government has already co-ordinated deliveries of PPE directly to health and care providers and to 38 local resilience forums across England. These efforts are being co-ordinated across all 4 nations of the UK to ensure appropriate distribution of critical PPE.

Since the beginning of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, over 761million items of PPE have been delivered across the UK to 58,000 different settings, including hospitals, hospices, care homes, home care providers, GPs, pharmacists and dentists to ensure our frontline is protected. This includes 158m masks, 135m aprons and 360m pairs of gloves.

The plan also emphasises the need to ramp up domestic production of PPE. The government is calling on industry to join forces to manufacture more protective equipment to support the national effort.

Already companies such as Burberry, Rolls-Royce, McLaren, Ineos and Diageo have started work to produce equipment including gowns, visors and hand hygiene products.

Following extensive consultation with the Medical Royal Colleges, all four UK governments have published updated guidance for PPE for health and care workers. This covers doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers and social care staff.

Critical PPE guidance has also been published for cleaners, funeral directors and first responders. Beyond these roles in settings including supermarkets and public transport, the clinical evidence, which is kept under review, does not suggest widespread benefit from wearing PPE over and above social distancing, social isolation and good hand hygiene.

In addition to this a new dedicated team has been set up to focus on securing supplies and identifying PPE suppliers from across the globe to meet the increasing demand for a growing list of products, with a call to arms to businesses to turn their manufacturing efforts to this response to meet technical specifications published by government.

Businesses and organisations including Kingfisher Group, Apple, Huawei and BP have also stepped up to the plate to generously offer their own PPE for use by the NHS and public organisations.