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Coronavirus update

Procurement teams continue to battle with critical personal protective equipment shortages, in spite of a raft of new efforts from the centre.

Sources told HSJ that even major trusts like Barts Health in London ran out of gowns last week and, according to the Health Care Supply Association, the products simply weren’t included in national pandemic influenza preparedness preparations. As HCSA chief officer Alan Hoskins put it in a now deleted tweet: “Losing the will to live, god help us all.”

NHS Supply Chain — which has reportedly been shipping its pre-Brexit stockpiles out to trusts — said it is expecting to get more gowns on Monday.

Meanwhile some smaller organisations providing community care complain they have been left off the distribution list for PPE entirely. An unexpected side effect of the fragmentation of the system into commissioners and providers, some of them tiny, nearly a decade ago.

But there may be light at the end of the tunnel for procurement staff, with NHS Providers reporting a new PPE-only supply chain should be up and running this week.

Moving from PPE to testing, trusts have been told they need to set some tests aside for key workers currently out of action due to covid-19.

NHS England has told trusts they need to hold back 15 per cent of their daily tests for key front-line workers who are quarantined at home with people showing covid-19 symptoms, in the hope of giving them the all clear so they can return to work.

Trusts have also been told to prioritise antigen testing — which can tell if somebody currently has covid-19 — for staff in critical care, emergency departments and ambulance services.

The government and NHS England chief Sir Simon Stevens have also promised testing will be “dramatically scaled up” this week.