• Health Care Supply Association raised concerns on Friday night about PPE supplies
  • It then reported improvements today
  • Despite this, some areas still reporting shortages

Personal protective equipment supplies today started to arrive at some trusts which were reporting shortages yesterday, but concerns remain about stock levels in parts of the country.

Procurement leads raised concerns on Friday that expected deliveries had not arrived, leaving some facing the weekend with low stocks.

The shortages follow NHS chief operating officer Amanda Pritchard telling the Commons health select committee on Tuesday there was not an overall shortage of stock, but admitting there were local distribution issues.

The Health Care Supply Association tweeted at 6:30pm on Friday that many trusts had not received supplies. It said: “We are all doing our best but the ‘system’ has failed the NHS.”

It added shortly before midnight that some acute trusts were receiving pallets of supplies but many were still waiting.

On Saturday morning, however, it said the situation had eased, with PPE deliveries reaching trusts after a “Herculean effort… systems may fail but our people don’t”.

However, some trusts were still facing shortages. Andrea Smith, procurement director for Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust and Sheffield Children’s FT, tweeted at NHS Supply Chain and NHS England last night: “We are not ok for PPE in trusts. We need your help, we can take deliveries tomorrow…. we need to keep our staff safe.”

At 4:00pm on Saturday, she tweeted she still had not had a delivery and had “zero long-sleeved gowns and aprons”.

Pia Larsen, procurement director for University College London Hospital FT, said every procurement team across the country would be working over the weekend “to counter the failure to NHS Supply Chain to deliver adequate stocks”.

However, Jason Lavery, vice president for NHS procurement at DHL Life Sciences, replied that his staff were still working on Friday evening sourcing and ordering equipment, although there were still some supply chain challenges.

The concern about supplies comes despite a letter to all trusts from NHS England’s strategic incident director Keith Willett, promising 150 hospital trusts would have a delivery on Friday and the remainder would have a “further special delivery of PPE” over the weekend.

In a letter to chief executives and clinical commissioning group accountable officers, dated 20 March, he said the NHS had moved to “providing substantial extra deliveries and support” which would operate 24/7.

London trusts had been sent 2.6 million face masks and 10,000 hand sanitisers on Thursday, all GP practices, dentists and pharmacies had had a PPE delivery, and deliveries had started to care homes, hospices and home care providers, the letter added.

Meanwhile, NHS Supply Chain on 20 March said it had eased restrictions on the supply of all PPE products after trusts criticised its attempts to “manage” supplies.

The Department of Health and Social Care declined to answer HSJ’s questions about the problems last night, but instead pointed to deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries’ statement at last night’s press conference.

Dr Harries said: “The country has an adequate supply of equipment. There was a problem with delivery but that has been resolved.

“We have set up a separate PPE supply chain which will allow the appropriate management to ensure that the supply and demand is there.

“This is an unprecedented health event and it is not unlikely that hospitals will have to ramp up their supply if they have a particular high demand.”