The UK government has launched a plan to distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) and secure future supplies for healthcare staff responding to coronavirus.
A full 24/7 military operation was underway to deal with the unprecedented global demand for PPE as a result of the pandemic, according to the UK government.
The plan includes a new national supply and logistics network to manage supply and demand across the UK. It is claimed to have already co-ordinated deliveries of PPE directly to health and care providers.
The government added it is working alongside industry to boost future supply of critical PPE to last the UK through the pandemic. As such, a team has been set up to focus on identifying PPE suppliers from across the globe to meet the increasing demand for a growing list of products.
A website, developed alongside the military, will be rolled out in the coming weeks to improve distribution and allow primary, social and community care providers in England to order critical PPE.
The plan also emphasised the need to ramp up domestic production of PPE, and the government has called on industry to join forces to manufacture more protective equipment.
It added that more than 761m pieces of PPE had been delivered across the UK, including 158m masks, 135m aprons and 360m pairs of gloves so far.
Launching the plan, health secretary Matt Hancock said: “There is a herculean effort behind the scenes, supported by the military, to get the right kit to our frontline heroes. These new supply chains, matched with a call to arms for more businesses and organisations to join this national effort, will help save lives.”
Speaking at a briefing on Sunday 12 April, Hancock said he wanted to go out of his way to thank procurement staff, who were working non-stop behind the scenes to cope with the demand for PPE.
Hancock said there were record amounts of PPE that had been put into the system and efforts would continue until everyone who needed the equipment had it.
“We have thousands of people working on this 24/7, including over the bank holiday weekend, because the need and the demand for PPE doesn’t stop either,” he said.
“It’s an enormous effort and I want to go out of my way to thank the procurement experts that we’ve got in the system, and they don’t often get thanks because they’re not on the frontline, but by god do we need them to make sure that we can get all that PPE.”
At yesterday’s briefing (13 April), foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, who is standing in for prime minister Boris Johnson, acknowledged there had been some challenges with distribution of PPE.
He said cost had not been a barrier to procuring equipment but supply had been a challenge as “it’s a very competitive market out there, there’s been so much demand for it”.
He said bulk drops were being made to local resilient forums, bodies that can distribute locally, and the government was doing everything it could.
“We’ve set up a hotline so that when there are distribution challenges, and we recognise that there have been some, that they can be unblocked as quickly as possible,” said Raab.