GP practices will be able to secure all of their PPE through a second Covid-19 spike from the Government’s PPE portal, the Department of Health and Social Care has pledged.
Until March next year, GP practices will be able to order an expanded number of items according to their patient numbers, based on ‘demand modelling’ carried out by the Government.
The Government said this was based on a ‘usage survey’ of GP practices and is also taking into account increased numbers of face-to-face consultations.
The Government’s pandemic stockpile of PPE is being held at 25 storage locations across the UK and orders can be met ‘within 48 hours’, it pledged.
The news comes as NHS England announced last week that GPs would be getting all their PPE free of charge going forward.
Setting out its new PPE strategy today, the Government said this has been made possible by a ‘huge’ increase in domestic manufacturing of PPE.
By December, it expects 70% of PPE required by the UK’s health and social care sector will be made in the UK, including all items except gloves.
The strategy document said: ‘During 2020 we have seen monumental change in the way that PPE has been secured and supplied across the country. The supply chain is now resilient and supply needs will be met through the winter. We have learnt a great deal from this experience and are in a strong position for the future.’
This pandemic stockpile will be kept until March next year, the DHSC said, after which the Government will evaluate the future need both with regard to Covid-19 and other potential pandemic threats.
The Government also said it now has ‘a robust plan to stand procurement and distribution systems back up at pace to provide a timely response which provides maximum effectiveness’ for a new Covid-19 spike.
The strategy also sets out plans to explore how PPE can be made more user-friendly, taking into account safety as well as comfort for those who need to wear PPE for prolonged periods of time.
The Government also plans to look at how PPE could be safely reused – including a trial of cleansing FFP3 respirators – as well as moving to more environmentally-friendly reusable options.
It also wants to reduce the use of gloves and towards better hand hygiene, and is considering a hand hygiene campaign.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘At the start of the pandemic, meeting the huge demands for PPE was a massive challenge.
‘That’s why we have worked every day since to ensure we have an uninterrupted supply to meet the challenges in the coming months and protect those who are protecting us.
‘We have built robust and resilient supply chains from scratch and thanks to an absolutely phenomenal effort from UK businesses, almost three quarters of demand for PPE will soon be met by UK manufacturers.
‘As we take every step to combat this virus we are setting out this plan to reassure our health and social care workers that they will have the PPE they need to carry out their tireless work.’
Currently there are weekly order limits for the PPE GPs can order from the Government Portal in an emergency.
Practices have been expected to use wholesale suppliers as their main source.
Earlier this month the Government reduced the number of visors GPs could order from the portal from 200 to 100 for a practice of 5,000 patients.
A version of this story first appeared in our sister title Pulse.