‘Staggering’ amount of PPE needed for care home sector, says procurement expert

Care homes are struggling to obtain personal protective equipment and facing exponential price hikes as they fight to secure supplies for frontline carers, experts have warned.

It comes as an NHS procurement specialist said the amount of PPE needed in the system are “staggering”.

Focus has been put on an RAF plane, believed to be carrying a delayed consignment of PPE (pictured), which leaded at Brize Norton in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Reports suggest the plane is carrying 400,000 surgical gowns, but experts have said they could be used within days as the number of gowns in the country is “critically low”.

The Government has come under mounting criticism over its ability to ensure NHS and care staff treating coronavirus patients have the PPE they need.

Joyce Pinfield, who is on the board of directors of the National Care Association, told the PA news agency that care homes have been “left in the lurch” and are having to source equipment from various organisations “hoping that they are bona fide providers of PPE”.

“We’re all fighting to obtain our own PPE,” she said.

“It’s been really left open to anybody who can import it, or produce it, emailing care providers and then they seem to be able to charge what they like.

“Just for basic surgical masks we used to be paying something like 9p each plus VAT. At the moment it can range up to £2.20 per mask.”

It comes as one NHS trust told the BBC it was using 72,000 pieces of PPE a day.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said trusts are getting through around 80,000 gowns a day, but had previously used up to 150,000 when at full capacity.

NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts, said last week that shortage of gowns was “critical”.

The amount of PPE used in hospitals is difficult to determine accurately. Figures depend on patient numbers and advice given by health officials on appropriate levels, which has changed recently.

In an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mark Roscrow, chairman of governors of the Health Care Supply Association, was asked about a hospital trust using 72,000 pieces of PPE a day.

“It’s a huge demand,” he said. “I think your correspondent just now referenced the volume that an individual hospital was burning through – if you multiply that across the whole of the NHS the numbers are absolutely staggering.

“It’s a classic demand and supply position – there’s far too much demand for what is a limited supply of product and a lot of people also fighting for the same items across the world.

“This is unprecedented demand at a time when the supply is fragile and vulnerable in lots of places as well.”

He said he did not think any country in the world was prepared to deal with the volume of PPE needed to deal with the crisis.

Mr Roscrow said procurement specialists are also facing problems from scammers.

“There are a number of organisations trying to use the chaos as an opportunity to make money – there’s a lot of fake product out there. So you’ve got to be extremely careful.”

It comes as Labour said British companies are being “ignored” when offering to help with PPE.

Since the weekend 36 British companies have approached the party saying their offers to help the Government provide PPE to frontline staff “have not received a reply”.

They include one company in Birmingham which has a quarter of a million aprons and masks and a company which says it can provide 100,000 face visors a week.

On Wednesday, health minister Helen Whately defended the Government’s efforts, saying officials had been contacted by more than 8,000 potential suppliers and ministers are concentrating on those with established supply chains.

“What the team is doing… is moving quickest on those who have the largest scale that they can supply because we need billions of items of PPE,” she told the Today programme.

“Some companies we have heard from have only set up in the last couple of days and, having had a conversation with somebody, they think they can get some stock to the UK.”

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