New consultation on extending free PPE to the health and care sector

The Department of Health and Social Care is seeking views on extending the provision of free personal protective equipment (PPE) to the sector beyond 1 April 2022 when this central, free provision comes to an end. The Department expects PPE usage to remain beyond March 2022 given current Covid-19 case levels and guidance.

The context

In the midst of the Covid-19 outbreak, and in response to the unprecedented need for and price of PPE, the DHSC launched an online portal which allowed health and care providers to access PPE free of charge. Prior to this, providers sourced their PPE locally from suppliers of their choice. Around 53,000 providers registered to the portal, receiving over 4 billion items of PPE so far to support their Covid-19 needs.

This central procurement and supply scheme is due to end in April 2022, however, the DHSC recognises that demand for PPE is likely to remain high after this date and the significant uncertainty means it is difficult to predict how PPE guidance might change over the next year.

Consultation options

The DHSC note that extending the scheme would “…remove the cost burden from providers of purchasing PPE for the length of the extension, reducing the risk of non-compliance with IPC guidance, and mitigating against reduced provider viability. This would ensure health and care workers are protected while COVID-19 remains prevalent. This would also mitigate against potential increased costs from some services being pushed onto the users of these services."

The consultation covers all health and care settings, from NHS trusts and foundation trusts, community health and care, mental health services to adult social care (residential care, domiciliary care, shared lives services, supported living, extra care, day services, personal assistants and unpaid carers) and independent sector providers delivering NHS care.

The Department is considering two options for the current free provision:

Option 1: extend free PPE for 12 months

  • central, free provision for all items of PPE
  • a further extension may need to be considered beyond 2022

Option 2: no extension of free PPE beyond 31 March 2022

  • from 1 April 2022, health and care providers will need to purchase their own PPE and free to choose their own suppliers

Have your say by 31 October 2021

The DHSC is keen to hear from all stakeholders to help inform their decision on continuing the provision of free PPE beyond 31 March 2022.  You can respond using this survey here. Alternatively, you can email PPE.strategy@dhsc.gov.uk.

Written by Libby McKane and Amanda Narkiewicz

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