Enough PPE in Somerset?

I confess that a mere month ago I would have struggled to tell you what “PPE” was. Today I know it to be personal protective equipment but of course we are all experts now. But trying to get to the bottom of whether NHS staff in Somerset have the protection they need, is not so easy.

We do know that a delivery of protective equipment arrived in Bath to provide protective equipment for staff working in adult social care. We know that 1 million items arrived including face masks, gloves, aprons, clinical waste bags and cleaning supplies.

We know it was to cover five local authority areas of Bristol City, BA&NES, North Somerset, Somerset and South Gloucestershire.

But despite our questions, we cannot get answers to how much of that went to Somerset as opposed to the other counties.

Then there was a rumour, repeated several times, that a shipment of PPE out of stores in Exeter heading for Somerset had been reassigned elsewhere. Now far be it for us to say it wasn’t a bigger priority elsewhere but it was interesting to note.

And according to the CCG, not true. An NHS spokesperson told us they were “not aware of any diversion in resources.”

Numatic step in

We have heard a lot about manufacturing businesses being asked to step in and help. But are they? Well yes they are. Numatic, the Chard based maker of vacuum cleaners got in on the act. The company have set up shop making face masks. A company spokesperson told us that “During the early stages of developing the face shields, and prior to production, we worked with the following services to test and review the equipment: Worcestershire NHS Trust, West Midlands Ambulance Service, Birmingham Children’s Hospital and The Gibraltar Health Authority.”

Now the company has moved into full production and among the hospitals an medical services being supplied are Yeovil, Taunton, Dorchester and SW Ambulance Service.

Fantastic news. A local manufacturer making face masks to supply local hospitals. This bodes well for the longer term future.

But why then do we keep hearing about shortages. Only last week we were heard persistent stories of Musgrove Hospital staff having to go to hardware stores to buy facemasks. Our source was reliable and a senior medic.

So we asked the Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group again. Have our local NHS staff got the protective equipment they need?

You’ll have to make your own judgement about the response. To me it does not directly address the question.

An NHS spokesperson said: “The Department of Health and Social Care has secured millions more items of personal protective equipment which is going out to frontline staff, and every NHS and hospital trust in England should have received a delivery. While the NHS is using high quantities of equipment to protect staff and combat the virus, the full weight of the Government is behind ensuring our staff have the high-quality protective equipment they need.

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