Robust plan for PPE ‘must be in place for winter’

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Supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) must be guaranteed ahead of winter when the UK could face a second wave of coronavirus, say MPs.

The cross-party committee says it is not convinced there is a robust plan or “sufficient urgency” from government.

It comes after an official assessment of the supply and distribution of PPE in England between March and May highlighted shortcomings.

Nationally, PPE stocks never ran out, says the government.

But there were some shortages, including the supply of gowns.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee called on ministers to come forward with a detailed plan within two months, setting out how they intended to keep the NHS and the care sector fully supplied in future.

The business leader brought in by the government to sort out shortages of PPE, Lord Paul Deighton, recently told the BBC that supplies were now stable and had been secured for the rest of the year.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, global demand for PPE has been at unprecedented levels.

Much of the PPE used in the UK is bought from overseas suppliers.

As of 5 July, the Department of Health and Social Care had distributed more than 2.2 billion items of PPE for use by health and social care services in England.

That compares with 2.43bn for the whole of 2019, pre-coronavirus.

Almost 28 billion items of PPE have been ordered overall from UK-based manufacturers and international partners to provide a continuous supply in the coming months.

Temporary scrapping of VAT on PPE has been extended until the end of October to make it easier and cheaper for care homes, charities and businesses to acquire the vital kit.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We do not accept these claims. We have been working around the clock to deliver PPE to the frontline throughout this global pandemic, working with industry, the NHS and the armed forces to create a distribution network to supply over 58,000 settings.

“We will continue to give the NHS whatever it needs and protect it for the future. We have written off £13.4bn of NHS hospital debt, recently announced another £1.5bn of capital investment, and we will deliver 50,000 more nurses by end of this Parliament.”