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County Council could end up spending £3m on PPE

Thursday, May 21st, 2020 11:27am

By Kerry Ashdown, Local Democracy Reporter

Staffordshire County Council could end up spending more than £3m on personal protective equipment for frontline care staff during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Government has come under fire in recent weeks over PPE supplies – and shortages of vital kit such as gowns and masks for health and care workers have been highlighted across the country.

Senior members of Staffordshire County Council voiced their concerns about the national PPE supply scheme at their latest cabinet meeting – and gave the go-ahead to buy more stock for the county’s health and care services. The authority’s aim is to maintain a ‘rolling supply’, with enough kit to last 12 weeks based on usage.

Staffordshire County Council began stocking up on extra PPE in early March, cabinet members heard at their virtual meeting on Wednesday. And so far more than a million pieces of PPE have been distributed to frontline workers across the county in recent weeks.

Councillor Mark Deaville, cabinet member for commercial, said: “We placed our first order for PPE on March 10 – a really important and perceptive decision I think you will agree. Since that time demand has risen massively.

“We regarded this provision of PPE as so important we made the decision to procure and maintain our own stock to satisfy the demand for a period of 12 weeks.

“There is a financial implication to this decision – so far we have spent over £1.3m on the provision of PPE. To continue this vital supply and due to the increasing demand it is possible that this extra cost will rise to just over £3m.”

Councillor Alan White, cabinet member for health, care and wellbeing, said: “These are really big numbers. One million items may seem a lot but it is not a massive amount in the grand scheme of things, when you go into a care home and see how much kit people need.

“The central Government supply system hasn’t worked as it should. Despite promises it would come forward everyone will have read about the Local Resilience Forum in Birmingham given out of date PPE.

“Crucially we have been able to continue to supply and have stocks of PPE. I want to pay tribute to those officers who have been helping us out with this – without their knowledge and skills we would not be here today.”

Council leader Philip Atkins said it was an example of local decision making being better. He added: “I hope that national government hear that message and give us the authority to just get on with it.

“When we put in a cabinet member for commercial who would have thought it would mean purchasing over a million pieces of PPE?”

A report to the cabinet meeting said: “PPE is a vital resource in Staffordshire’s response to the impacts and effective infection control management of this pandemic. Care homes and frontline workers need PPE beyond their normal stock levels, and their existing supply chains are often late with deliveries, have increased their prices significantly, or their orders are not accepted or delivered.

“The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has been arranging PPE drops for Local Resilience Forums (LRF), of which we have had three to date. The PPE provided is relatively low in quantity once split across the partnership, and a fraction – less than 4% – of what is needed to fully support the health and care sector for the Staffordshire LRF.

“The government has plans to implement a PPE ordering service for Local Authorities and Care Homes which was due to commence on the 6th April. This was then delayed by four weeks.

“In week one of the Council’s Incident Management Team being set up it was clear that PPE would be of critical importance. With little information on national provision we made the decision to commence ordering emergency supplies.

“We have eight district locations at local fire stations where providers can collect PPE 24 hours a day at six of the locations, or between 8am and 8pm, seven days a week at the other two locations. For our own social work workforce, we have set up eight district office locations which are supplied weekly with PPE to meet the needs of frontline social work visits.

“Care providers with significant needs due to outbreaks have received weekly drops to support them through this difficult period and to manage their PPE gaps. Providers have been encouraged to keep ordering their own supplies and to ring the national helpline for support.

“At the time of writing this report, we have supplied almost 400,000 (383,084) items of emergency PPE to our providers. Last week we provided over 105,000 items alone.”

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