• London trusts told not to expect gowns from centre in coming days
  • Gowns recommended for those performing certain procedures
  • Procurement leads continue to report shortages of other PPE, as well as swabs and body bags

London trusts have been warned not to expect deliveries of gowns from the national supply chain for at least the next few days, HSJ understands.

Without central deliveries, providers risk running out of gowns ahead of the Easter weekend. Trusts will have to rely on existing supplies and any new stock they procure independently. 

Staff performing or assisting aerosol-generating procedures on confirmed or suspected covid-19 patients should wear gowns, according to the latest guidance from Public Health England.

But supplies have been an issue for weeks, with trust procurement leads raising concerns about dwindling gown stocks last month. It recently emerged that gowns were not included in national pandemic stockpiles, unlike other forms of personal protective equipment like masks and gloves.

One NHS procurement lead told HSJ they had “no idea” how London trusts would get through the weekend. Another questioned why providers weren’t alerted earlier so they could secure alternative suppliers.

London remains the epicentre for covid-19 hospital admissions, although cases have been rising across the UK.

A procurement lead working outside of London warned the problem may extend further than the capital. He told HSJ he feared “virtually all trusts” would run out of gowns this weekend.

NHS Supply Chain, which procures common consumables and medical devices on behalf of NHS trusts, has been using stocks of gowns built up ahead of a potential no-deal Brexit, according to trade body the Health Care Supply Association.

An NHS SC spokeswoman told HSJ: “We recognise that some trusts have low stocks of gowns and we are working hard with NHS England and NHS Improvement and across government as part of a central team to ensure those with the greatest need are prioritised to receive deliveries.

“Over the last few days over 119,000 gowns were delivered to NHS trusts in England. Further supplies of gowns are on order and are expected soon.

“Understandably, there has been huge global demand for many types of PPE including gowns and it is important that all PPE is used in line with the UK guidance to maintain both safety and supplies, published on Public Health England’s website.

“In the short term where possible trusts are encouraged to work together on an STP basis to facilitate mutual aid and further details are available on our website for trusts to facilitate this. For emergency requests, trusts should phone the National Supply Disruption Response helpline.”

As well as gowns, trust procurement leads continue to report shortages of key protective equipment such as aprons, as well as other coronavirus-related supplies like testing swabs and body bags.

The Telegraph reported Wednesday that three nurses pictured wearing bin bags in place of proper PPE had all tested positive for the coronavirus

NHS SC and the Department of Health and Social Care have come under fire for delivering inadequate and unpredictable supplies of both PPE and “business as usual” stock in recent weeks.

A new supply channel was set up at the end of March to deliver coronavirus-specific supplies. Managed by retail logistics firm Clipper with assistance from the military, it is expected to provide PPE, swabs, body bags and cleaning products to community partners as well as trusts.