It had been claimed that PPE companies in England were told to prioritise England over Scotland. The First Minister of Scotland and the Scottish Health Secretary have however “accepted assurances” that this is not the case.
Scottish Secretary for Health and Sport Jeane Freeman also tweeted that she has been assured that “neither NHS England nor PHE asked suppliers to divert PPE orders from Scotland”.
Pleased @MattHancock changedhis plans to join a constructive discussion of 4 Health Ministers & grateful 4 assurance that neither NHS England nor PHE asked suppliers to divert PPE orders from Scotland. We go forward constructively as before & continue to check on these supplies.
— Jeane Freeman (@JeaneF1MSP) April 14, 2020
The First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon said on Good Morning Britain:
“There was a concern raised by the care home sector in Scotland that some of their usual suppliers of PPE were telling them that they couldn’t supply normally right now because they had been told that they had to prioritise the NHS in England. That was obviously a concern for us. Now we have had assurances from the UK government that that is not an instruction that has been given from the NHS in England or Public Health England. I am willing to accept that assurance.”
The Scottish Government’s Clinical Director Professor Jason Leitch also earlier rejected claims that protective equipment used to fight Coronavirus is being diverted from one part of the UK to another. Professor Jason Leitch is responsible for quality in the health and social care system, including patient safety and person-centred care, NHS planning, and implementing quality improvement methods across the government and the broader public sector.
Speaking on the Good Morning Scotland programme, he said:
“We have looked into it and we think it’s rubbish. So the companies, and our colleagues at NHS England yesterday when we spoke to them, said it wasn’t true. There’s another element of this though, that the English route for PPE is one of three routes that Scotland has access to PPE from. So we are in a four-country fight against this virus. Honestly, people might not believe me, but that four-countries’ fight is pretty aligned.”
The UK Government has also denied the claim that it has instructed companies to prioritise England and has also insisted that it is working to evenly distribute the supply of PPE around the UK. Chancellor Rishi Sunak said at the UK Government Daily Coronavirus Briefing today that there is “no truth in those stories”.
Where did this claim come from?
Donald Macaskill, chief executive of industry body Scottish Care, speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, said:
“We are facing an additional problem and that is that the care home sector and the care sector had traditionally ordered PPE from various sources. The four largest companies in the UK last week said they were not sending to Scotland and their priority was going to be England NHS and then English social care providers so within two or three days we’ve had a massive dry-up of procurement into Scotland and that’s had an impact, a really serious impact on our care homes and home care.”
The National newspaper spoke to Dr Donald Macaskill, the chief executive of care home sector body Scottish Care (the body representing private care homes in Scotland) after he had raised concerns that PPE firms were supplying equipment to hospitals and care homes in England over ones in Scotland and Wales.
Asked where the guidance to give priority to care homes and agencies in England had actually come from, Dr Donald Macaskill referred to a message on a website which said the direction had come from Public Health England. Public Health England is an executive agency sponsored by the UK Government’s Department of Health and Social Care.
“I suspect it came from Public Health England as the post on the Gompels website said.”
Gompels, which is based in Wiltshire, had said that it will not supply Scotland or Wales under a contract that it holds with Public Health England.
“You must be registered and operating within England — apologies to Wales and Scotland, we are told you have different processes for getting emergency supplies,” its website states.
A spokesperson for the UK Department of Health and Social Care said:
“PPE supplies are being coordinated at a UK-wide level and allocation made based on clinical need across the whole country, which ensures a planned and coordinated response to this global pandemic. Supply routes have been set up within each nation to provide PPE to frontline services.”
Further explaining the situation, Mr Leitch also said he would be speaking to Donald to clarify this.
“What we struggled a little bit with distribution over the last few weeks is distribution to the lesser well-known care home sector who haven’t needed PPE in the past until they’ve had this virus. Now that is being sorted very, very quickly. I’m much more confident than I was even a week ago, that that is now working. We’re speaking to Donald later in the week again.”
In Scotland, PPE comes from UK-wide procurement, orders from overseas and PPE made in Scotland itself.