• Trust procurement leads have been directly sourcing PPE to supplement central deliveries
  • National leaders want this to stop to reduce competition
  • But procurement sources say this will have a “catastrophic” impact

Trusts have been told to stop procuring their own personal protective equipment, ventilators, and a range of other products in high demand due to covid-19.

Procurement directors were told on Friday these goods would be procured on a national level to reduce competition for supplies in a letter obtained exclusively by HSJ. The letter, from Department of Health and Social Care official Jonathan Marron and NHSE/I chief commercial officer Emily Lawson, said: “It is vital that the UK Government procures items nationally, rather than individual NHS organisations compete with each other for the same supplies, to protect the health of NHS staff and patients across the whole country.”

The only exceptions are in the cases where a trust is working with a “new, local or small suppliers” in a way that ”does not conflict with national procurement”.

A senior national procurement figure told HSJ that the move had been undertaken to prevent local stockpiling of in-demand equipment by those trusts with strongest purchasing departments and largest budgets.

But procurement leads have been expressing concern over inadequate and unpredictable central deliveries for some weeks. Many trusts have been procuring their own PPE, as well as other covid-19 related goods, to supplement “push” deliveries from national procurement body NHS Supply Chain.

A senior NHS procurement source told HSJ that stopping local procurement for certain products would be “catastrophic” unless deals for several months’ worth of stock was already in place.

The letter states that some trust procurement directors will now work with a cross-governmental team to review procurement lists and share their market intelligence.

Trusts who are partway through “significant” procurements have been asked to “flag” these deals to their national colleagues, who will “help you to conclude the deal, reimburse you, and manage the products through the national stocks.”

HSJ understands some significant PPE orders procured by trusts have been shared with central stocks in recent weeks, including a large gown order from Kings’ College Hospital foundation trust. Sources also said an ill-fated order of gowns from Turkey was initially placed by Royal Free Hospital FT.

Trusts can continue working with new, small and local suppliers, but should signpost to national colleagues when they are able to “scale up” manufacturing, the letter stated. Donated goods do not need to be flagged.

The letter also said a data collection process was being rolled out nationally to “ensure deliveries are focused on trusts who need them most,” and to “help support mutual aid.” The new system, fronted by a PPE survey built by Silicon Valley software firm Palantir, launched Monday.

A spokeswoman for the DHSC said: ”In order to prevent Trusts competing for the same supplies of PPE during an unprecedented global public health emergency, we ask that PPE is procured centrally. This sensible measure also allows us to achieve the best commercial terms through volume.

“We have delivered more than 1 billion items since the outbreak began and there is a 24 hour NHS-run helpline where NHS and social care workers can call to report shortages in supply.”

These goods are being managed by a central team across the four nations and should no longer be procured locally:

Personal protective equipment

Mechanical ventilators

Bilevel / Non invasive ventilators

CPAP devices

Oxygen concentrators

Video laryngoscopes – reusable and single use

CT scanners

Mobile X-ray

Portable suction pumps

Enteral feed pumps (and associated consumables)

Syringe drivers

Volumetric pumps

Blood gas analysers


These goods are being procured on behalf of England:

Ambulatory peritoneal dialysis machines

Continuous renal replacement therapy machines

Reverse osmosis machines


 Updated at 10.08 a.m. 4th May 2020 with a comment from the Department of Health and Social Care and to reflect that Palantir is working on data collection software.