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DH: Only a third of English pharmacies registered for free PPE

The DH hopes more pharmacies will sign-up to the PPE portal

Just a third of community pharmacies in England have signed up to the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DH) personal protective equipment (PPE) portal, C+D has learned.

There are just over 11,500 community pharmacies in England, meaning around 3,800 have so far registered to receive free PPE under the service since it was extended to the sector on August 3.

However, the government is encouraging more community pharmacies to use the opportunity to order free PPE via the portal. “We want more pharmacies to take advantage of this offer as part of our commitment to protect staff and the public and we would encourage all eligible providers to sign-up,” a DH spokesperson told C+D earlier this week (October 5).

The DH said that around a third of community pharmacies are signed up to the PPE portal and that it plans to increase this number by reminding pharmacies of the existence of the resource.

“Since the start of the pandemic, we have distributed over 3.5 billion PPE items for use by health and social care services in England and pharmacy teams can order free PPE through the portal to meet increased need,” the spokesperson added.

Pharmacists and pharmacy staff with questions about using the PPE portal can contact the customer service team on 0800 876 6802, from 7am to 7am on any day of the week, according to the DH.

Pharmacies were added to the list of providers that can order PPE through the DH’s portal in August. They could initially only order 50 IIR masks, 100 aprons and 100 pairs of gloves per week, regardless of the size of their team.

These limits were reviewed on September 2, when it was decided that pharmacies with more than five employees would be able to order larger quantities of PPE through the portal – now up to 400 IIR masks, 200 aprons, 200 pair of gloves, and six bottles of hand hygiene.

When the DH’s PPE portal launched in May, community pharmacies were told to continue sourcing PPE from their usual wholesalers as the portal was at that point only available to  GP practices and small care homes in England.

However, as C+D reported in April, many pharmacists were facing challenges in trying to source face masks from wholesalers, despite Alliance Healthcare, AAH and Phoenix UK being sent fluid-resistant surgical masks from the DH’s stockpile on April 9.

Have you signed up to the DH's PPE portal?

Leon The Apothecary, Student

DH really dropped the ball on this one, and there general feeling I am personally getting from this is too little, too late.

Pharmacies would have already had to fork out for their own supply of PPE already, so claiming only a third of pharmacies have "taken up the offer" is purely disingenuous and deliberately misleading.

It is my hope that the DH sees this for what it was, an unmitigated failure, and subsequent cover-up.

Dodo pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Most pharmacies had to order PPE at exorbitant prices, when none was available to us from the NHS, during the first phase of the pandemic. They are probably still using it and have had no funding for it. Also, when this portal was launched we were told it was for emergency use only.

Andrew Boyle, Community pharmacist

Bit confued....felt we could only order through this portal 'in emergency' if usual channels could not supply.

What is the actual situation?


TC PA, Community pharmacist

It was when it first was introduced but now we should order as much as we need. There are limits put on so we can't order loads.

I'm surprised only 1/3 have signed up given the uproar from pharmacies about the difficulty in sourcing PPE and cost.

C A, Community pharmacist

I think most pharmacies aren't aware of it?

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