Update on Personal Protective Equipment – 16 March

Update on PPE access

Please see the below note from the Scottish Government regarding supplies for the social care sector’s response to COVID-19.

We hope to be able to share further details very soon.


To:       NHS Board Chief Executives

            Local Authority Chief Executives

            Chief Officers Integration Authorities 


Dear colleagues,

A number of you have been in touch about access to appropriate equipment to ensure your staff can safely and effectively deliver support to people in their homes and in residential care during the response to COVID-19. A particular priority that has been raised is Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – as emphasised in the Health Protection Scotland guidance issued on Friday for social or community care and residential settings – and hand sanitiser/handwash. Many of you have said you are experiencing shortages, or issues with normal procurement routes.

I realise the situation is urgent in most – if not all – cases, and I appreciate those of you who have gotten in touch to alert us to local developments to date.

We are working at pace with NHS National Services for Scotland (NHS NSS) to establish a triage centre for action needed around supplies for social care. We expect this to be live within the next 48 hours. This will provide a phone number for Local Authorities/Integration Joint Boards/social care providers to call if they are experiencing shortages of supplies that cannot be resolved through local procurement arrangements. In critical cases, the triage centre will trigger distribution of supplies from stock. More widely, the triage centre will support providers to work with suppliers to identify and remove blockages, etc.

I am currently clarifying that the arrangements will also extend to self-employed personal assistants and unpaid carers who experience supply issues. Your help with communicating the message to these people when the time comes will be much appreciated. 

It goes without saying that we expect services to ration supplies to critical frontline staff only, for tasks where it is absolutely necessary. You may wish to consider centralising stock with only senior managers having access, as an approach that is already being taken in some local authority areas. I also expect Scotland Excel to support NHS NSS with the logistics around procurement/distribution arrangements.

I recognise that there will be some critical cases where help with supplies is needed more quickly than the 48 hours until the triage is live. In these cases, I urge you to get in touch with your local Health Board to access supplies. I have liaised directly with the Chief Executive of NHS NSS, and he has assured me that these requests will be taken on a par with supplies for the Board’s NHS services and assessed on a risk basis.

These are unprecedented times, and the need for collaborative working has never been greater. I am encouraged by the recognition that the safety and effectiveness of our social care services is absolutely paramount in our response to the virus, and therefore the urgency of mobilising supplies. Notwithstanding that, we must be mindful that the NHS NSS stock is not bottomless, and that requests must be urgent and genuine across the system – whether from NHS services or social care. I trust that you will communicate this message to your colleagues so that together we can ensure supplies go to those who need them most, first.

We will be in touch as soon as the triage arrangements have been established with details of how to get in touch with the centre and the approach they will take to prioritisation.