From this week, GP surgeries and small care homes in England can register on a new PPE portal launched by the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) in collaboration with eBay and order protective equipment for free.
The DH said earlier this week (May 26) that the new portal will be “scaled up nationally”. However, this phase of the rollout only includes “GPs and small residential and domiciliary social care services”, as the DH said they are “less likely to be registered with wholesalers”.
The new portal is for emergency top-ups and primary care providers are being asked to source their PPE through their traditional routes first, the DH told C+D yesterday (May 28).
However, pharmacies should get their PPE through their “business as usual supply routes”, such as from wholesalers, the DH added. When unable to source the equipment from them, they should contact their local resilience forum.
Only once these two options have been exhausted should pharmacies that are still in need of PPE contact the national supply disruption response (NSDR) line, the DH said.
Last month (April 2), C+D reported that many pharmacies were struggling to source PPE through the NSDR line and had been directed back to their usual suppliers when contacting the helpline.
“Disappointing” that pharmacy is left out
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has called for pharmacy to be “urgently included in the PPE portal”.
RPS England board chair Professor Claire Anderson said it is “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,” she added.
The Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) CEO Leyla Hannbeck told C+D yesterday that “as demonstrated during the COVID-19 period, community pharmacy is an essential part of the primary care network, yet every time we have to fight to get included and recognised”.
“AIMp has raised this issue with NHS England and the DH and asked for a dialogue to understand the root causes of this problem and what can be done to address it.
“While supply through wholesalers seems a sensible approach from the DH, unfortunately, it hasn’t worked from the start, still doesn’t work and needs to be urgently reviewed,” she added.
Many pharmacists are finding it difficult to get hold of 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, C+D revealed last month (April 24).