THE UK Government directed firms supplying emergency personal protective equipment to send vital stock to care homes and care agencies in England and not to supply the goods to service providers in Scotland or Wales, according to one of the companies concerned.

Gompels HealthCare, which makes gloves, gowns and face masks, posted a message from Public Health England (PHE) on its website after a surge in demand for personal protective equipment (PPE).

It is one of the larger companies supplying PPE, which it sells to care homes and agencies providing care for elderly people in their own homes.

In reference to one essential item it stated: “Gompels is helping the Covid-19 response by distributing this product on behalf of Public Health England to ensure that essential supplies get to care home and domiciliary care providers.

“As such this product has a number of restrictions on who can purchase it. You must be registered and operating in England – apologies to Wales and Scotland, we are told you have different processes for getting emergency supplies.”

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It is not clear which particular piece of PPE the message was about, but it went on to say the product could only be purchased by a care home provider or agency.

Earlier yesterday Dr Donald Macaskill, chief executive of care home sector body Scottish Care, raised concerns PPE firms were supplying equipment to hospitals and care homes in England over ones in Scotland and Wales.

He told the BBC’s Kaye Adams: “The four largest companies in the UK last week said they were not sending to Scotland and their priority was going to be NHS England and the English social care providers. 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.”

Macaskill later told The National the information PHE was prioritising supplying homes in England had been brought to his attention by a care provider in Scotland.

Asked where the guidance to give priority to care homes and agencies in England had come from, he referred to the Gompels website message which he had been alerted to and which said the direction had come from Public Health England.

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He added: “I suspect it came from Public Health England as the post on the Gompels website said.” He went on: “Internationally we have also seen evidence of it becoming extremely difficult to buy from suppliers, because of the same issue of nations wanting to prioritise their own supply.”

Macaskill said a number of companies have been in contact with him to say they would only supply PPE to England.

The UK and Scottish Governments have come under criticism over frontline hospital and care staff being unable to access vital PPE, with concerns the supply problem may be costing NHS and care home workers’ lives. Both governments have said they are working in tandem to source more supplies, with the Scottish Government also having its own procurement strategy.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has admitted there had been “glitches” when it came to getting PPE to the frontline. PPE shortages were raised in a letter, signed by more than 100 medical professionals, claiming some staff were risking their lives because they don’t have suitable aprons, masks and eye wear.

A spokesperson for the UK Department of Health and Social Care said it is "working very closely with the devolved administrations in ensuring there is sufficient PPE to meet the clinical need across the health and social care sector".

They went on: “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.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said:  It would be totally unacceptable if PPE equipment needed in Scotland was diverted, intercepted or sent elsewhere in the UK. We have no knowledge of this and are checking urgently to establish if this has happened.

“Scotland’s social care workforce is on the frontline of our national pandemic response. Their work is always hugely valued, and never more so than now.

“The safety of the workforce is an absolute priority, and we are continuously looking to improve the distribution of the protective equipment that is so vital in the fight against Covid-19.”

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