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PPE provision ‘nowhere near enough’ in first wave and staff left at risk, say MPs

Committee urges government to learn lessons and improve management and distribution
PPE in warehouse

Committee urges government to learn lessons and improve management, distribution and stock checking

The government needs to improve management and distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) and gain a better understanding of the experience of front-line staff during the COVID-19 first wave, says a report by MPs .

The Public Accounts Committee said it had heard compelling evidence that stocks for front-line workers ran perilously low, single-use items were reused, some was not fit for purpose and staff were in fear that they would run out. Front-line workers were left without adequate supplies, risking their own and their families lives to provide treatment and care, said committee chair Meg Hillier.

Care homes only received a

Committee urges government to learn lessons and improve management, distribution and stock checking

Picture: iStock

The government needs to improve management and distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) and gain a better understanding of the experience of front-line staff during the COVID-19 first wave, says a report by MPs.

The Public Accounts Committee said it had heard compelling evidence that stocks for front-line workers ran perilously low, single-use items were reused, some was not fit for purpose and staff were in fear that they would run out. ‘Front-line workers were left without adequate supplies, risking their own and their families’ lives to provide treatment and care,’ said committee chair Meg Hillier.

Care homes only received a fraction of the PPE they needed

The report said in the first wave care homes only received a fraction of the PPE needed, compared with the NHS. It said surveys by health and social care employers found at least 30% of participants, including nurses, doctors and care workers, reported having insufficient PPE – even in high-risk settings such as COVID-19 wards.

The situation was particularly acute in the social care sector, which did not receive ‘anywhere near enough’ PPE to meet its needs.

The report said that between March and July 2020, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) provided NHS trusts with 1.9 billion items of PPE, equivalent to 80% of the estimated need. In contrast, it supplied the adult social care sector with 331 million items, meeting only 10% of its requirements.

The committee called on the DHSC to follow a raft of recommendations, including improving the management and distribution of PPE and checking stock is in date and replaced when necessary.

RCN says nursing staff still being denied adequate PPE

RCN general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said: ‘Nursing staff working in hospitals, community and care homes are still being denied adequate PPE. The government must now ensure all nursing staff, wherever they work, have the highest level of protection so they are never again forced to work while putting themselves at risk.’

When asked by Nursing Standard how it would respond to the recommendations, the DHSC did not answer specifically, but said: ‘Thanks to the combined effort of government, NHS, armed forces, civil servants and industry we have delivered over 8.1 billion items of PPE at record speed.

‘We have a robust process in place to ensure PPE meets the strictest safety and quality standards before being distributed to the front line.’


Find out more

COVID-19: Government Procurement and Supply of Personal Protective Equipment (Public Accounts Committee)


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