• Move affects only seven of NHS Supply Chain’s offering of more than 110 hand sanitisers and alcohol gels.
  • Several Chinese factories have stopped shipping internationally to meet local supply.
  • Comes amid widespread shortages of hand gel supplies to consumers.

A national procurement body is limiting the supply of certain hand sanitisers to the health service as coronavirus covid-19 continues to squeeze the global supply chain. 

NHS Supply Chain, which procures common consumables for NHS providers, began “managing demand” for seven hand sanitiser products on Wednesday. The organisation’s online catalogue contains more than 110 active hand sanitiser and alcohol gel product lines. 

Many common consumables used by the health service are made in China, where demand for items like surgical masks has surged. Several Chinese factories have stopped shipping internationally to meet local demand, disrupting the global supply of these products. 

On Tuesday, NHS Supply Chain said it was implementing “controls on excessive order quantities” of a range of personal protective equipment to make sure stock was managed “fairly”. 

The body told customers: “Exceptionally large orders or unplanned stockpiling at a local level places unnecessary strain on the supply chain at a time when there is disruption to production and the transportation of products that are made in China.” It added customers may need to consider buying alternative products if items become temporarily unavailable.

The procurement body issued similar advice last month. 

A senior procurement leader in the NHS described the situation to HSJ as the first stage of “rationing” supplies to hospitals to preserve national stocks. 

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for industry body the Health Care Supply Association told HSJ: “We’re working closely with NHS Supply Chain and other distributors around securing stock — making sure nobody over-orders and making sure demand is smoothed. We would ask all trusts to continue to do this. 

“We are hoping that NHS Supply Chain has the issue under control in terms of stocks, deliveries and security of supply. Certainly the work they did on a no-deal Brexit gives us confidence in their ability to plan. 

“Clearly what we’re facing now involves some unknowns, and we’re all going to have to work together to make sure no-one is disadvantaged.”

A spokeswoman from the Department of Health and Social Care told HSJWe are rightly taking every possible action to tackle this virus and have central stockpiles of a range of medical products to help ensure the uninterrupted supply to the NHS. 

“We have well-established procedures to deal with supply issues, should they arise, by working closely with industry, the NHS and others in the supply chain to help prevent shortages and minimise any risks to patients.”

The department denied the move amounted to rationing. NHS Supply Chain declined to comment. 

Last month, the DHSC warned providers not to stockpile medicines and medical goods in preparation for coronavirus, to prevent unnecessary strain on supply. The department asked suppliers to hold on to any remaining stock set aside in case of a no-deal Brexit.  

Meanwhile, there have been widespred shortages in the availability of hand sanitisers to consumers, and some high street pharmacies have announced they would limit the sale to two products per person. Some members of the public have resorted to stealing hand gels from hospitals, the BBC reported Friday.

NHS Supply Chain is “managing demand” for the following products: 

As of Wednesday (4 March): 

  • SC Johnson Cutan hand sanitiser 50ml, 400ml and 1,000ml cartridge foam 
  • Gojo Purell cleanser alcohol hand rub 60ml bottle with spray pump (to be carried by staff), 100ml gel bottle, 300ml gel bottle 
  • Ecolab cleanser alcohol hand rub liquid bottle 500ml 

As of Monday (2 March): 

  • Guardian Surgical non-sterile face visor splash shield 

As of 26 February: 

  • Crest Medical Ltd disposable premium face visor 
  • Crest Medical Ltd safety glasses 

As of 25 February: 

  • Molnlycke splash resistant IIR surgical face mask with tie band 
  • Molnlycke standard type IIR blue surgical face mask with earloops 

As of 21 February: 

As of 25 February, Clinisupplies Ltd swab gauze EVE106 was also experiencing “temporary supply issues” related to coronavirus.

Updated on 9th March at 11.45 with a statement from the Department of Health and Social Care.