• Sources warn many trusts have just a couple of days’ supply of FFP3 masks
  • Issue raised in recent national PPE calls
  • FFP3 masks crucial for staff performing certain procedures on covid-19 patients
  • Department of Health and Social Care says there are no “overall” shortages

Approximately a third of acute trusts are running low on crucial protective masks going into the weekend, sources have told HSJ.

Many have two days’ stock or less and are not expecting new deliveries over the weekend, according to well placed sources.

A senior local NHS procurement source said the issue of FFP3 masks had been raised in several recent national calls, adding that “supply has dropped off a cliff” over the last two weeks.

Another source involved in coordinating supply said the problem appeared to have surfaced again because of a “lack of new orders arriving… and low confidence in future orders”.

However, some other trusts appear unaffected, saying they had a sufficient supply.

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care denied there were any “overall shortages” of FFP3 masks, and said there was no unmet demand through a national PPE emergency hotline as of 5pm Friday.

He added: ”During this global pandemic, we have been working around the clock to ensure PPE is delivered as quickly as possible to those on the frontline and we have delivered more than 1.75 billion pieces items since the outbreak began.”

FFP3 masks offer a high level of protection and are used by staff performing aerosol-generating procedures on patients with confirmed or suspected covid-19.

The UK government has faced months of criticism over PPE failures, with procurement leads describing to HSJ inadequate and unreliable deliveries on several occasions. In recent weeks there have been fewer reports of problems, but the shortage of FFP3 has now become severe again for some hospitals.

HSJ has approached the Department of Health and Social Care for comment.

The government has said it is operating in an intensely competitive global market, and has recently announced several domestic PPE manufacturing deals.

Officials recently banned trusts from bulk-buying their own PPE in an effort to reduce competition and, according to sources, prevent local stockpiling.

PPE supply also remains a concern outside of acute settings. Last week HSJ reported that an online PPE portal for community providers originally expected to fulfil the “bulk” of supply had been relegated to an “emergency top up” service.

Demand for PPE is expected to rise as lockdown eases, pupils return to school and community providers begin seeing more patients in-person.

Updated at 9.45 a.m. on 15/6/20 with a comment from the Department of Health and Social Care.