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DH consults on extending provision of free PPE for pharmacies beyond March 2022

The Department of Health and Social Care (DH) has launched an online consultation over whether the provision of free personal protective equipment (PPE) should be extended for all health professionals beyond March 31 next year, it has announced.

Free, centralised PPE provision will currently continue until March 31, 2022, the DH wrote in a consultation document published today (October 1).

From April 1 next year, health and social care providers in England, including pharmacies, will be expected to purchase PPE from suppliers of their choice, the DH added.

“However, given current case levels and guidance”, the DH said, “we expect PPE usage to remain at COVID-19 levels beyond March 2022, putting significant upward pressure on health and care costs in the next financial year”.

The DH has “sufficient stock centrally” to continue to support providers to meet their COVID-19 needs beyond March 2022, it added. This consultation will therefore “inform the department’s decision” in considering whether to extend central, free provision of PPE.

The DH calculated that – if PPE volumes remain the same beyond March 2022 – the cost to the health and care sector in 2022/2023 would be £600 million if free PPE is extended for a year. However, the cost will go up to £1.4 billion if it ends from April 2022.

This is because “the costs of ending free PPE are higher as we already hold stock centrally, which would need to be newly purchased if free PPE were to end”, the DH explained.


More than 4bn items ditributed via PPE portal


In May 2020, the DH launched a new free PPE ordering portal for GPs and care homes. At the time, pharmacies were advised by the DH to obtain their PPE from their usual wholesaler supply routes, before the portal was eventually opened up to community pharmacy in August 2020.

Around 53,000 health and social care providers in England – including GP practices, pharmacies, adult social care providers, dentists and orthodontists – have so far registered for free COVID-19 PPE through the online PPE portal, the DH wrote in its consultation document.

As of September 2021, over 4bn items have been distributed via the PPE portal.

Individuals and organisations are encouraged to respond to the consultation either online or by emailing [email protected]. The consultation runs until 11.45pm on October 31.


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