The offer of free Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to frontline health and social care staff in England has been extended for another year.
Supporting frontline workers remains a priority for the government and, following a public consultation, NHS trusts, primary care and adult social care providers will continue to receive COVID-19 PPE free of charge until 31st March 2023 or until infection prevention control (IPC) guidance is withdrawn or significantly amended. This is to ensure staff and their patients are protected.
The government is also developing an improved platform for the procurement of PPE that will be quicker and easier to use. Health and social care providers have been invited to test-drive the new platform and help design a service that works best for them. The new and improved features will enable quick ordering options and status updates.
Free, centrally-procured PPE relieves the financial burden of PPE procurement done on an individual basis, and also enables access to quality PPE of a reliable standard.
Health Minister Edward Argar said: Throughout the pandemic we have taken swift action to secure the PPE health and social care providers need to ensure staff, patients and residents are protected.
We are extending the offer of free PPE to help relieve pressure on the health and care system, working hand in hand with providers to develop a new ordering platform that works best for them.
A public consultation was launched in October 2021 to determine whether to extend the central, free provision of PPE. Over 5,000 responses were received, from a range of people and organisations, including primary and social care providers, community health care services, and PPE wholesalers and suppliers. 95% of respondents were in favour of extending the offer of free PPE.
Following customer testing and trial launch, the new PPE portal will be rolled out to all eligible users from April.
Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England, says:
“We are pleased that the Government has listened to Care England in extending the offer of free PPE. The sector is currently contending with a multitude of issues against a backdrop of outbreaks and rising infection levels, so this represents a welcome relief and will provide a real boost for the sector as we learn to live with covid. Most importantly, the continuation of free PPE will continue to help better protect some of society’s most vulnerable.”
The DHSC previously committed to providing free PPE to the sector until 31 March 2022 and launched a consultation in October 2021 on whether to extend this offer for a further year. Today, the Government’s response to the consultation has been published.
Care England’s response to the consultation highlighted that free PPE via a centralised mechanism had been an enormous win for Government and the potential return to a situation similar to March 2020, when there were huge challenges in accessing PPE, would be a retrograde step in the management of the ongoing pandemic.
Martin Green continues: “This is a positive step forward in the Government’s response to aiding the sector, but this must be accompanied by further measures, including a comprehensive solution to the ongoing workforce pressures being felt by the sector. The adult social care workforce is our biggest resource and must be recognised and valued as such.”