‘Shortages’ in supplies of hospital protective equipment

By Bill Heaney and Andrew Picken of BBC Scotland News

Artwork by Gemma Woods Fraser

The local health board for West Dunbartonshire and South Argyll has warned there have been shortages of some coronavirus protective equipment.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said the current supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was more stable now but “short supplies of different elements” of equipment were occurring.

In a new paper, the health board revealed it had, at times, been forced to buy PPE “at above usual prices”. An unnamed source said: “We are being robbed, ripped off by unscrupulous manufacturers who have more than doubled their prices.”

Global demand for gloves and masks is at unprecedented levels.

Nicola Sturgeon has previously said there were “adequate stocks of the main PPE” but acknowledged difficulties with delivering gowns.

However, a survey by the Royal College of Nursing suggested half of all nurses working in high-risk environments had been asked to reuse PPE.

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In a paper for the interim’s board’s meeting on Tuesday, 5 May, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde stated “work continues both locally and nationally to ensure staff have the right PPE at the right time”.

West Dunbartonshire Council’s representative there is Cllr Jonathan McColl, leader of the SNP administration, but he won’t comment to tell The Democrat if he will attend the meeting either virtually or in person.

The board paper added: “Whilst the current number of Covid-19 positive patients appears to have stabilised, the sourcing, supply, distribution and usage of PPE continues to evolve and require improvement and refinement, including preparing for any “second wave” outbreak.

“Whilst the current supply of PPE is more stable, there remain issues of PPE supplies from the National Distribution Centre. This supply issue is reflected at a UK level.

“Since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak, this has included national short supplies of different elements of PPE at various times, lack of clarity on supplies and erratic deliveries.”

The paper said this was symptomatic of the increased demand and added, “these shortages have resulted in the procurement team (at times) bypassing normal tendering processes to purchase stock at above usual prices”.

QE2 hospital 7URGENCY: The Queen Elizabeth University Hospital is treating patients with coronavirus. Picture by Bill Heaney

The NHS National Distribution Centre in Larkhall is where PPE is gathered before being passed on to all of the health boards.

Between 1 March and 23 April more than 90 million PPE items were delivered to Scotland’s hospitals and eight weeks’ supply of protective equipment was delivered to GPs during the week of 30 March.

The impact on West Dunbartonshire

The NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde paper gives an insight into the volume of patients the board is dealing with, reflecting the fact it is the most populous part of Scotland.

As of 1 May, the board had a total of 538 confirmed Covid‐19 inpatients in hospitals, with a further 441 suspected Covid‐19 inpatients.

The paper reports that intensive care activity was at its highest on 13 April when there were 86 patients, of whom 75 had the virus.

By 1 May there were 67 patients in intensive care, of whom 44 had coronavirus.

The paper notes “the length of stay of these patients has been prolonged and it is anticipated that the need for additional critical care capacity will continue for some time”.


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