The recommended eye protection for GPs is now on its way, NHS England medical director for primary care Dr Nikki Kanani has said.
Speaking in a webinar on Thursday, Dr Kanani admitted that personal protective equipment (PPE) ‘continues to be an issue’ and that distribution has been ‘variable’.
She also said that the online ordering service for GPs will be up and running soon.
However, she told GPs: ‘A quantity of the PPE that’s now recommended – including the eye protection – has now been sent out to wholesalers and local systems to distribute to primary care.
‘I am assured that the eye visors and those kits have now gone through the system.’
Additional PPE has been ‘released to established wholesalers’ so that GPs can access supplies ‘through business as usual routes’ – ie, via usual supplies – an NHS England webinar slide added.
PHE updated guidance to GPs earlier this month to say they should wear eye protection alongside surgical facemasks, gowns and gloves when within two metres of patients with confirmed or possible coronavirus.
NHS England later said all patients should be treated as having possible coronavirus at this time.
Dr Kanani added: ‘We hope that next week when the online ordering service is up and running, it will help to contribute to a more consistent supply of PPE.’
Meanwhile, the emergency PPE hotline – which Pulse previously reported was redirecting GPs to their usual suppliers to buy their own PPE – is still available ‘if all else fails’, she said.
It comes as health secretary Matt Hancock drew criticism from healthcare workers after suggesting that they were over-using PPE.
Announcing a new PPE plan on Friday, Mr Hancock said: ‘There’s enough PPE to go around, but only if it’s used in line with our guidance. We need everyone to treat PPE like the precious resource that it is.
‘Everyone should use the equipment they clinically need in line with the guidelines, no more and no less.’
As part of this plan, the new PPE ordering website for primary, social and community care providers will be rolled out ‘in the coming weeks’, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.
A prototype of the ordering website initiative, which will ship directly via Royal Mail, was being tested by ‘an initial group of primary care providers’ last week, the PPE plan added.
Meanwhile, all Government guidance will be highlighted in a new ‘hub’ to help ensure that PPE is not ‘wasted or stockpiled’, the DHSC said.
It said: ‘[One aim of the plan is] being clear who needs PPE and when, and who does not, based on UK clinical expertise and WHO standards.
‘This will ensure workers on the front line are able to do their jobs safely, while making sure PPE is only used when clinically necessary and isn’t wasted or stockpiled.’
More than 761 million items of PPE have so far been delivered to different healthcare settings including 22 million to primary care providers, the DHSC said.
However, it reiterated Government calls for UK industry to ‘ramp up’ domestic PPE production, with companies including Burberry, Rolls Royce and McLaren already starting to manufacture PPE.
The plan said: ‘While we entered the crisis with a stockpile designed to respond to an outbreak of pandemic influenza and a no-deal Brexit, our supply chain for PPE was designed to accommodate delivering to 226 NHS Trusts.
‘As of this week, we are now providing essential PPE supplies to 58,000 different providers including care homes, GP surgeries, hospices and community care organisations.’
Last week, Pulse revealed that PPE distributors and manufacturers are unable to get hold of or make the quantity of items required, as bulk orders placed by some organisations have swept away reserves.
A recent BMA study found that nine in 10 GPs have no eye protection, while 62% reported problems with supply of facemasks.
Meanwhile, GPs across the country have come together to share homemade PPE in attempts to compensate for the ongoing supply problems.