Free COVID-19 PPE for community pharmacists in England


The Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Portal, designed for healthcare workers in England to use in emergency circumstances, has changed from being a top-up system to become the primary source of PPE during COVID-19.


Community pharmacists are included in the list of eligible primary care professionals and should now order their PPE, free of charge, through the portal.


Responding to the news, English Pharmacy Board Chair Claire Anderson said:


“We are pleased that this portal has changed to become the primary source for pharmacists to get protection against COVID-19. The RPS has been calling throughout the pandemic for access to the highest quality PPE, fully provided by DHSC, as pharmacists shouldn’t have to foot the bill for themselves.


“Pharmacy teams continue to see patients and support public health by remaining open for all. The demand for this protection will increase as we move into the next phase of the pandemic and we are grateful that DHSC has extended this quota.


“It is important that we all continue to follow social distancing rules while using this protection and remind those visiting their local pharmacy to follow suit and help protect staff and patients.”



£53 million PPE order creates 200 new Scottish jobs


A major order to make personal protective equipment (PPE) for NHS Scotland has been secured by a Scottish company. The £53 million order will be manufactured by Alpha Solway, based in Annan, Dumfriesshire.


The order will support around 200 new jobs in addition to the 50 already created at Alpha Solway since the start of the pandemic.


Alpha Solway – which secured the order through national supplier Arco – will make 232 million surgical masks and 2 million visors to meet the demand for Scotland’s health and social care sectors until summer 2021.


The company is also making an additional 6 million FFP3 respirator masks which will meet around 87% of Scotland’s health and social care needs.


Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation Ivan McKee said:


“This is fantastic news for Dumfriesshire and for NHS Scotland.  It is great that this substantial PPE order will be supplied by Scottish firm Alpha Solway.


“It delivers significant savings to the NHS as well as supporting vital jobs – both at Alpha Solway and at other Scottish businesses in their supply chain – and demonstrates that Scottish manufacturing is competitive on a global stage.


“The order also highlights that the proactive work undertaken during lockdown to bolster the COVID-19 supply chain is continuing to deliver real benefits in the form of higher employment, increased manufacturing activity and savings for our NHS.”


Alpha Solway director Steven Binnie, said:


“Alpha Solway, part of Globus Group, is proud to be awarded this order to further support NHS Scotland during this incredibly challenging time. We are also delighted to announce that it allows us to create two hundred new jobs.


“NHS Scotland’s commitment to purchase critical PPE equipment from local manufacturers sends positive signals to businesses such as ours and gives us the confidence to continue investing in the local area. It enables us to do more in the fight against the impact of COVID-19, but in a way that lays positive, sustainable foundations for the future.”


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RPS seeks clarity on three areas to protect pharmacy teams


The RPS in England has written to Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health Jo Churchill MP, seeking reassurances and clarifications on three policy areas to protect pharmacy teams and support them looking after patients.


As Government and the NHS begins to look at how the health service will need to adapt in future in light of COVID-19, the letter calls for all pharmacy teams to be included in support for the workforce to deliver frontline care safely.


The letter calls for:


  • Assurances that pharmacists and all health professionals in primary care will have equal access to the new PPE portal.
  • Clarification on the new Test and Trace programme, the circumstances in which staff members may have to self-isolate, and the potential impact on patient access to services.
  • Assurances that all staff in pharmacy teams who want an antibody test will be offered one as quickly as possible.


An extract of the letter from RPS President Sandra Gidley and RPS England Chair Prof Claire Anderson to Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health Jo Churchill MP is available below:


“As we begin to look at how the health service will need to adapt in future, it is vital that all pharmacy teams are included in support for the workforce to deliver frontline care safely. With this in mind, we had sought assurances from you, including in our letter of 23 April, that community pharmacy would be able to access the new PPE portal. We were given the strong impression that, once the robustness of the system had been tested then pharmacy would be included.


“The announcement on 26 May mentioned GP practices and small care homes “during this phase of the roll-out”, but did not include pharmacy or wider primary care. We would welcome confirmation that pharmacists and all health professionals in primary care will have equal access to the PPE portal.


“Can you confirm the date that pharmacists will be able to access the scheme?”


“We are awaiting further details on the announced Test and Trace programme, in particular, whether there is guidance on the implications for the health and care workforce. For example, would staff in a pharmacy or GP surgery, often working in close proximity, all have to self-isolate for 14 days if a patient or member of the team was tested with COVID-19? Given the potentially significant impact on patients if a pharmacy has to close for two weeks with short notice, we are seeking urgent clarification.”


“While it has been reported that community pharmacy teams will be able to access the antibody testing programme, a letter from the NHS on 25 May notes that ‘each NHS region is coordinating its own specific arrangements to roll out antibody testing to NHS staff’. It adds that further scientific guidance and decisions from DHSC are awaited as to whether staff will be tested once or repeatedly. We would welcome further detail on this phased approach, confirmation that all staff in pharmacy teams who want an antibody test will be offered one, and assurance that you would seek this to be made available to all health and care staff as quickly as possible.”




Disappointment as pharmacy not given access to new PPE portal


From this week, GPs and small care homes can register on the newly formed PPE Portal. This is a new online portal developed in collaboration with eBay to help primary and social care providers to order critical PPE, as it is scaled up nationally.


Pharmacy has not been allowed access to the PPE Portal at this stage.


The PPE Portal has been tested and is now being scaled up nationally over the coming weeks. During this phase of the roll-out, GPs and small residential and domiciliary social care services will be invited to register on the portal.


The government has said that they are focusing on small care providers because their data shows that, although they account for half of all care provision, they seem to be less likely to be registered with wholesalers. They have said that it is therefore important that they ensure that they have the option of quickly joining the portal should they need to.


This forms part of our national effort to ensure critical PPE continues to be delivered to those on the frontline.


The Royal Pharmaceutical Society English Pharmacy Board Chair Professor Claire Anderson has expressed disappointment that pharmacists do not appear to have been given access to the PPE hub at this stage. She commented:


“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.”


This news comes as the government announced a ‘significant’ boost to PPE supplies that is intended to help meet demand in the health and social care sectors has been announced by the government.


It has signed 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 said that it has also supported 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. Just yesterday alone, 3.3 million masks, 11.8 million aprons, 33,000 gowns and 36.2 million gloves were delivered to health and social care settings in England.


As demand for PPE hit record levels during the global pandemic, government and industry joined forces to build a PPE distribution network from scratch. With the help of the Armed Forces, the NHS Supply Chain now delivers PPE to 58,000 settings including care homes, hospices and community organisations.


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.


Lord Paul Deighton is leading the government’s efforts to secure PPE and ensure this gets to where it is needed. As part of this, he is driving forward the coordination of the end-to-end process design and manufacture of new domestic PPE supplies.


Lord Paul Deighton 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.”



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Distribution association warns pharmacy PPE stock running out


The Healthcare Distribution Association alerted the community pharmacy sector to the fact that the stocks of Public Health England (PHE) PPE masks recently supplied by the Association’s member wholesalers to pharmacies, for staff use only, have now almost completely run out.


HDA member companies are awaiting a new sale event to be announced by Public Health England.


In the meantime, the Department of Health & Social Care has told HDA:


“We have extended our PPE supply route to Local Resilience Forums (LRFs) to help distribute stock to organisations outside of the NHS supply chain who have the highest need clinically and other services that would have a high priority need for PPE including Pharmacists.


“Over 7 million more items of PPE have been delivered over the last week to the LRFs identified as being in the highest need of resupply. We will continue to make drops of PPE for distribution by the LRFs to meet some priority need until the new e-commerce solution is operational.


“We will continue to make releases to wholesalers when stocks permit.


“If providers are unable to access PPE through these routes and have an urgent need, they should contact the National Supply Disruption Response (NSDR) helpline to request emergency support. The 24/7 freephone number is 0800 915 9964.”


In other news, the UK government has flown over 22 million pieces of PPE and more than 1000 ventilators to the NHS and Social Care Services from China over the last three weeks.


The British Embassy in Beijing worked with the Department of Health to procure and source these donations of medical equipment from China.


The equipment was shipped between 2 April and 25 April in 20 flights operated by passenger airlines including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, as well as various cargo operators and delivery specialists. The China Civil Aviation Authority granted the UK special permission to allow passenger routes to take cargo for the shipment.


Dame Barbara Woodward, British Ambassador to China, said:


“I am delighted that we have been able to deliver huge quantities of lifesaving equipment for the NHS and our social care services.


“Our strong trade relationship with our Chinese partners has meant that we have been able to source the right equipment and we have seen both UK and Chinese firms contribute to our joint fight against COVID-19.


“We are working round the clock to bolster the NHS supplies and save lives and we are seeking further deliveries as a matter of urgency.”


Almost 2.5 million of the PPE equipment is donated by Chinese organisations including British Chinese Community Zhejiang UK Association. The biggest donor so far is Bank of China, whose over 1.8 million pieces of PPE and 20 ventilators have already reached the UK. Guys and St Thomas hospital and Age UK have also received the medical supplies donated by Chinese organisations.


David Lawson, Chief Procurement Officer at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust said:


“We are very grateful for donations from the British Chinese Community and for the support of the British Embassy in Beijing, both of which have helped to ensure a steady and timely supply of PPE and other vital medical equipment to help the NHS response to COVID-19.”


Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director of Age UK, said:


“We are grateful to the people of Changsha for their kind support and donation to Age UK during this challenging time.


“The masks we received will be given to our local Age UKs which are providing practical support in their communities, including helping people who are recovering from the virus to leave hospital and go back to their homes, and will help to keep staff and older people safe.”



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Access to PPE for everyone who provides social care in Scotland


Everyone who provides social care will have access to appropriate PPE under new arrangements announced by the Health Secretary.


From today, local Hubs will distribute PPE supplies to the whole of the social care sector where normal supply routes have not been successful. These hubs will extend their provision to include all social care providers, and unpaid or family carers and personal assistants.


During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, global supply chains have been put under immense pressure and that is why the Scottish Government has set up supplies of PPE to support the social care sector from the national stock.


Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:


“The Scottish Government values the importance of everyone who is providing social care and we want to ensure they have access to appropriate PPE.


“As we respond to the challenges from global scarcity of PPE, we have worked with partners to agree an improved model that will ensure all social care providers have access to supplies from national NHS stock.


“This has only been possible because of a shared aim to ensure the right PPE gets to the right people at the right time and to keep everyone safe.


“In the coming weeks, we will collectively monitor how this model is operating, identifying challenges quickly and taking action as we deal with the evolving nature of the pandemic.”


Health and Social Care spokesperson for COSLA, Councillor Stuart Currie said:


“COSLA welcomes this announcement which will ensure PPE provision for unpaid and family carers and personal assistants.


“Local Government has worked with partners across the sector to develop this model to ensure those who are supporting vulnerable people within their communities and all parts of the workforce have access to the PPE they need.”



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