Army to be brought in to assist with supply chain of PPE for NHS staff

The armed forces are being drafted in to help manage and distribute supplies to frontline NHS staff battling the coronavirus pandemic.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC there have been “challenges” with the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) but that he was taking the issue “very seriously”.

NHS England said millions more items of PPE had been delivered over the last few days to hospitals, ambulance trusts and care homes among others.

It follows a letter in the Sunday Times from almost 4,000 NHS workers who called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to “protect the lives of the life-savers” and resolve the “unacceptable” shortage of protective equipment.

The group said many medical workers are “putting their lives on the line every day” by treating coronavirus patients without appropriate protection, and they called on Mr Johnson to ensure an adequate supply of masks, safety glasses, gloves, aprons and protective suits.

NHS England said the army would “play its part” from this week, offering personnel to “help to manage and offload supplies in busy NHS settings” and distributing PPE supplies to the front line.

Mr Hancock told the broadcaster: “I am determined to ensure that the right kit gets to the right hospital, the right ambulance service, the right doctors’ surgery, right across the country.

“There have been challenges and I can see that. We’re on it and trying to solve all the problems.”

There have been increased pressure on the supply chain of PPE owing to the outbreak of Covid-19 as well as the related manufacturing slowdown particularly in China, the NHS said.

Emily Lawson, chief commercial officer for the NHS, said: “We need massively increased, urgent volume of these supplies to the frontline in this exceptional set of circumstances.

“Working with our partners, we are now seeing much increased capacity, and a more responsive supply chain to help take us through the coronavirus outbreak. We are extremely grateful for the army’s support in doing so.”

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