In a major setback, pharmacy has not been allowed access to a new government online portal designed to help primary and social care providers to order critical personal protective equipment (PPE).
The PPE Portal, developed in collaboration with eBay, has been tested and is being scaled up nationally over the coming weeks.
During the current phase of the roll-out, GPs and small residential and domiciliary social care services will be invited to register on the portal.
RPS demands inclusion of pharmacy
Commenting on the news, Royal Pharmaceutical Soceity Chair Claire Anderson said: “It’s really disappointing to see pharmacy being left behind in this phase of the roll-out.
“Pharmacies are one of the last places keeping their doors open to the public without an appointment and yet seemingly an afterthought when it comes to sourcing PPE for staff.
“We’ve raised this repeatedly with the Government and have called for pharmacy to urgently being included in the PPE Portal.
“People working on the frontline of COVID-19 should get the same support wherever they may be, including across the whole of primary care.”
The government said it was focusing on small care providers because “they seem to be less likely to be registered with wholesalers,” adding that its data shows that they account for half of all care provision.
“It’s therefore important that they ensure that they have the option of quickly joining the portal should they need to.”
Significant boost to PPE supply
Government on Tuesday (May 27) announced “a significant boost” to PPE supplies across health and social care sectors, following deals with more than 100 new suppliers from around the world in a challenging global market, including securing a further 3.7 billion gloves to help meet the expected demand.
The government has also supported UK industry to significantly boost domestic production with companies signing contracts to manufacture over 2 billion items of PPE in the UK, including facemasks, visors, gowns and aprons.
Since the start of the outbreak, over 1.48 billion items of PPE have been delivered to the frontline in England, and tens of millions more items distributed in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, a government press release stated.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Last month, I set a national challenge to ensure we continue to supply enough PPE to those on the frontline of this battle.
“We have now signed deals with over 100 suppliers across the world to secure more PPE, and at the same time we have ramped up domestic production. We have now ordered 2 billion pieces of PPE from homegrown firms which is also great news for jobs and the economy, and over 3 billion pieces from abroad.
“Worldwide demand for PPE has never been higher so I want to thank Paul [Lord Deighton] for his work in ensuring that PPE continues to be delivered to where it is needed.
The UK has worked with numerous international partners to procure additional PPE supplies throughout the pandemic. A new team has been established to secure new supply lines from across the world and will continue to strengthen and diversify the supply chain.
Domestic production is simultaneously being ramped up to unlock new avenues to get PPE to the frontline.
Lord Paul Deighton, who leads the government’s efforts to secure PPE, said: “As unprecedented demand for PPE continues around the world, British industry has stepped forward to strengthen the UK’s response and increase PPE supplies.
“We have already secured millions of PPE items through deals with British industry, and continue to work with hundreds of potential manufacturers to further bolster our domestic supply chain now and in the future.”