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The second wave of the covid pandemic appears to be upon us. Cases are rising, hospital admissions are increasing, deaths from the virus no doubt will not be far behind.

While the approach of the second wave has been accompanied by stories of faults and failings in the system delivering vital covid tests, the first wave in March was accompanied by a crisis in the supply of essential personal protective equipment.

In March, trusts were under mounting pressuring from an “all consuming” flood of covid cases. The strain was compounded by widespread delays to deliveries and shortages of essential protective kit for clinicians on the frontline.

NHS Supply Chain, the agency responsible for buying common consumables for the NHS, was accused of rationing supply. Trusts said they were not getting their full orders filled.

At the end of March, with more than 500 patients a day dying in England’s hospitals, the government brought in a logistics firm with the Ministry of Defence to create a covid-specific supply chain, to “ease pressure” on the procurement agency.

In August, HSJ reported Supply Chain Coordination Ltd, the publicly owned company responsible for managing NHSSC, had been put under review by the Department of Health and Social Care and the Cabinet Office.

And less than six weeks after that, the man charged with leading SCCL, Jin Sahota, has resigned. He told the board at the end of last week that he was stepping down. It was “Jin’s personal decision and comes at the conclusion of his assignment to NHS Supply Chain”.

Too close for comfort

The onset of the second wave has also brought a warning from one of the royal colleges about English emergency departments reporting “dangerous” overcrowding similar to levels seen pre-covid.

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine is worried about covid spreading among the most vulnerable patients, as overall transmission rates continue to rise sharply across the UK. It has always been expected that accident and emergency activity would return to pre-covid levels this winter, but overcrowding so far in advance of the cold season has created another huge worry to add to system leaders’ list.