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GPs go forth

GPs trying to access NHS England’s ‘emergency’ PPE told to buy their own

Exclusive GPs calling the new ‘emergency’ helpline to request personal protective equipment (PPE) have been redirected to their ‘usual suppliers’ to buy the items they need, Pulse has learned.

NHS England announced last week that GPs can call its 24/7 National Supply Disruption Response (NSDR) helpline to request emergency 72-hour deliveries of PPE to fill ‘gaps’ in distribution.

However, GPs across the country have told Pulse that the helpline staff have asked them to contact their local supplier to buy the PPE they need, rather than being provided it free of charge.

A spokesperson for NHS England said that the helpline ‘is servicing any urgent immediate short-term needs’.

But Braintree GP partner Dr Sanjeev Maskara told Pulse that when he contacted the helpline, he was ‘advised to order through the suppliers first’.

He added: ‘I called them today after seeing the Pulse article for PPE - they said that they have delivered to us on 9 March. I checked with my nursing staff - we had gloves, flimsy masks and ordinary roll of gowns - no proper PPE.

‘When I asked for PPE, I was asked to contact our local supplier - to buy from them.’

And Debra Spencer, business partner at a practice in Bristol, told Pulse that she too was asked to buy her own PPE when she called the emergency helpline to request a delivery.

She contacted the helpline yesterday morning because her practice’s PPE is ‘likely to run out this week’, she said.

Ms Spencer added: ‘Unfortunately, the helpline advice is they can “request” the PPE from PHE but they cannot guarantee it will actually be sent to us in GP practices.’

A GP partner from Sussex, who wished to remain anonymous, told Pulse that they have called the helpline number four times ‘over the last few days’ and also been advised to first ‘buy PPE from our usual suppliers’.

They added that they were then advised to obtain PPE from the NHS Supply Chain but were informed that it has ‘stopped opening new accounts’ when they tried to register and were redirected back to the NSDR helpline.

After being ‘escalated’ to the Commercial and Procurement Cell (CPC) by the helpline, the GP partner was also told that the request ‘may be filled if the items are available’, they said.

They have since informed Pulse that they have received a pack of disposable eye protectors this morning.

They said: ‘This was part of the individual request for eye protection and gowns that I made to the CPC Team. No eye protection whatsoever was included in the standard GP PPE delivery that we received on 11 March - only plastic aprons, gloves and basic masks.

‘I think most GPs feel that the PPE supplied by the NHS is not adequate, especially when you have to see very unwell patients or perform resuscitation. The concern is that adequate PPE is still not in place as GPs and other community HCPs and carers are starting to work in “hot” sites and attend to palliative COVID cases who are being managed at home or in residential care.’

They added: ‘It is significantly more difficult to arrange urgent PPE than the Government, the NHS and CCGs are suggesting. Practices are relying on the goodwill of local businesses and schools in many cases.

‘It is demoralising and frustrating to find that adequate arrangements are not already in place and that the guidance and advice we are repeatedly being given is not reflected in the reality of the situation - even after concerns have been “listened to” and “escalated” numerous times over.’

GPs also took to Twitter to express their concerns about the ‘emergency’ PPE helpline.

Dr Steve Kell, GP partner at Larwood Health Partnership in Worksop, tweeted that the NSDR helpline ‘isn’t working’.

He told Pulse: ‘We are being told to go through normal old routes and [there is] no supply.’

GP and Gateshead clinical lead for diabetes at NHS Newcastle Gateshead CCG Dr Becky Haines also tweeted that her practice manager has been unsuccessfully attempting to register for the NHS Supply Chain for 24 hours.

GP Dr John Hughes shared a photo of the ‘insulting token’ his practice received as its PPE delivery.

A spokesperson for NHS England said: ‘The Department of Health and Social Care has secured millions more items of personal protective equipment which is going out to frontline staff and family doctors, and we are working on distributing even more stock to GPs as well as releasing additional PPE equipment to leading wholesalers that routinely supply to practices.

‘In the meantime, for practices that are not able to get hold of stock via their usual wholesalers, the NSDR helpline is servicing any urgent immediate short-term needs.’

It comes as deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries admitted in last night’s coronavirus press conference that she was too optimistic when she claimed earlier this month that the problems around PPE had been ’completely resolved’.

She said: 'I have to admit, I stood here about ten days ago and said probably very optimistically that we had solved the PPE position. My apologies - because 48hrs later our distribution issue had popped back in again.

'There have been some distribution issues [but] we are developing an e-system so that will make it much easier, for example for care homes, to have that.’

She added: 'The UK has always had sufficient stocks to date that it needs against its guidelines and those guidelines are among the best in the world.’

PPE deliveries 'should go to match where the critical clinical risk is’ and be ‘proportionate’ to exposure, Dr Harries said.

She reiterated that the current PPE guidance is under review to make ‘small tweaks to ensure that people feel safer’.

Pulse has learned that Public Health England is working on updating its guidance on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and is expecting to publish the results later this week.

The BMA has sought clarification from the Government on what risk doctors are expected to take when caring for patients without adequate PPE.

In the meantime, some GP leaders have taken matters into their own hands and recommended their colleagues to avoid seeing any patients without PPE.

Readers' comments (24)

  • So Mike Gove lied? Who would have guessed.

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  • I suppose if you run out of PPE you are
    obligated to direct patients with possible Covid symptoms to that part of the NHS that has access to PPE to protect yourself and your staff- with an apologetic letter to A&E explaining that you have no protection.

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  • We will be running out soon and will then stop seeing all patients as we have to assume all patietns have COVID

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  • Are we surprised that NHSEngland are running around like headless chickens?

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  • We were down to our last 11 masks as we’d advised our staff to wear them with all Face to face contacts for the last 2 weeks in spite of PHE guidelines as they are clearly bollocks. Everyone should be considered as potentially having Covid during an epidemic. We needed to protect our staff. When we were running out and needed more, even prepared to pay for it NHS supplies could not help us. We had to resort to making a plea on social media for people to donate which they did generously. Local vets, dentists, beauticians and even the local plumbers all dropped off PPE for us. It’s was an amazing community effort but made a complete mockery of the NHS and the lies HMG are currently spouting.

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  • The non availability of properly working PPE’s that genuinely prevent the virus infection
    shows the jaw dropping incompetence of NHS England. Supply of flimsy masks, with no clinical evidence that they prevent infection takes negligence of the NHS England to new levels.

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  • the reason gp's seem to be more vociferous about the lack of ppe is probably down to the fact that hospital doctors have been threatened with disciplinary action if they tell tales !
    luckily, out here in gp land, we do not have the same constraints on approaching the media.
    at least we are not ruled so much by unqualified, overpaid, sponging, managers.
    for details see

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  • Where's Optimus?

    I would like to report the potential abuse of locums...
    Run triage often from home and avoid all face to face contact due to no PPE
    and insist locums see patients face to face..
    That is... the unofficial hot clinics...

    You know who you are..
    This will only make it harder for you to get locums

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  • Where's Optimus?

    Agencies posting hotclinic posts...
    If no PPE...
    Avoid like plague

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  • Where's Optimus?

    I am sick of seeing the lies on the news...
    The same small clip of two people putting on the same ppe is shown every time the issue is discussed...

    Operative staff footage is used to pretend there is PPE..
    Surgeons have always used gowns and masks....

    55 medical staff deaths in Italy so far....and they had good PPE..

    At this rate UK will have many more.

    Nightingale hospital volunteers.. with no PPE.. cheering and getting happy to go in...

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