The UK Government has been telling companies supplying personal protective equipment not to send the stock to Wales and Scotland, according to claims in a Scottish newspaper.
The National newspaper refers to a statement on the website of one of the main PPE suppliers which says that they are only distributing a product to England.
“You must be registered and operating within England – apologies to Wales and Scotland, we are told you have different processes for getting emergency supplies,” the message reads.
The company, Gompels HealthCare, which makes gloves, gowns and face masks, is one of the larger companies supplying PPE in the UK.
The UK Department of Health and Social Care said that supplies were being co-ordinated at a UK level.
Care homes in both Wales and Scotland have had trouble sourcing PPE after companies decided to sell to England only.
Last week a care home owner in Wales says she has been refused PPE by Gompels because her suppliers are reserving stock for English customers.
Ceri Roberts, who runs two care homes in Porthmadog and Criccieth in Gwynedd, said two suppliers had declined to sell to her when she tried to buy aprons and gloves for her staff.
She said that she was told by one supplier told her it was selling stock “on behalf of Public Health England”.
Public Health England is an executive agency sponsored by the UK Government’s Department of Health and Social Care.
Gompels Health Care, told her: “We notice that your order includes products which we are selling on behalf of Public Health England, and we can only deliver these products for people who operate in England. Different schemes exist for Scotland and Wales.”
Dr Donald Macaskill, chief executive of care home sector body Scottish Care, told the National newspaper he suspected the direction not to sell to Wales and Scotland had come from Public Health England.
“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 told the National a number of companies have been in contact with him to say they would only supply PPE to England.
The Department of Health and Social Care told the Times newspaper that it was working “closely with the devolved administrations” to ensure there is enough PPE to meet clinical need and that supply routes have been set up within each nation to provide equipment to the front line.
It said: “PPE supplies are being co-ordinated at a UK-wide level and allocation made based on clinical need across the whole country.”
The Scottish government 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 front line 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.”
Yesterday the general secretary of the Wales TUC said that they were hearing “horror stories” over a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for NHS staff dealing with coronavirus.
Shavanah Taj told the BBC: “We’re getting some real horror stories now, in terms of front-line NHS workers and social care workers fighting coronavirus.”
However, Dr Stuart Walker, executive medical director for the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, said hospitals had enough PPE.
“My understanding, after spending time on the wards myself, is that the right level of PPE is available,” he said.
A Welsh Government spokesman said: “We’re working very hard to make sure all our front-line NHS and social care staff have the protection and support they need to undertake their vital roles, this includes working with trade unions, health bodies, regulators and local government.
“So far, we’ve distributed more than 10.4 million items of PPE from our pandemic stocks, over and above our usual supply. We are working with the rest of the UK to ensure there is sufficient supply of PPE and we’re working with Welsh businesses to produce PPE in Wales.”