Midlands-based workwear manufacturer Wearwell (UK) Ltd has added its voice to appeals to the UK government to rethink a controversial decision by the Department of Health and Social Care to stop the funding of PPE to regional NHS Trusts. Each Trust is now required to purchase essential PPE directly from Central Procurement, who purchase the bulk of the NHS personal protective equipment form overseas manufacturers, despite a UK government initiative to make 20% of all PPE in the UK.
One of the UK’s leading manufacturers and suppliers of workwear, Wearwell was approached by Birmingham Hospitals Alliance via Medilink West Midlands in April to help diversify the supply chain with the inclusion of UK made PPE, in order to build resilience and reduce reliance on a fiercely competitive global market dominated by China, ahead of the critical winter period.
Dr Darren Clark, Chief Executive at Medilink Midlands, expressed his concern that the companies who rose to the challenge in the first wave of Covid-19 are now being hung out to dry. He said: “The NHS has been crying out for the timely delivery of products which are of high enough quality to protect NHS and care staff and their patients. The Midlands PPE Collective more than rose to this challenge so it’s frustrating that their businesses are now being put at risk as a result of decisions to procure PPE wholly from Central Supplies. This one collective alone has demonstrated how capable SMEs are when asked to meet stringent supply chain demands and they should be given the opportunity to continue providing quality products to the NHS. The added bonus is that this would help to create much-needed jobs and boost the local economy.”
Despite investing £100,000 in new machinery to supply 10,000 surgical gowns per week for the NHS as part of the local consortium, and achieving the prestigious CE mark and EN 13795 accreditation on those gowns, Wearwell and other local manufacturers now face an uphill battle in order to secure future employment for their newly established workforce.
The manufacturer says the decision to stop local NHS Trusts from securing PPE and instead forcing them to go through Central Procurement comes at a critical time in the spread of the pandemic with the nation under a second lockdown.
Richard Wright, CEO of Wearwell said, “We urge the government to rethink its new directive, given how successful the current system has been. Allowing NHS Trusts to work with local UK PPE manufacturers supports the local economy, lowers the NHS carbon footprint and both secures and creates UK jobs.
“As a local supplier, our consortium provides resilience to our local NHS Trust. Wearwell has been delivering 10,000 gowns per week for several months, meaning those hospitals can have confidence they will never run out of this vital piece of PPE during the difficult months that lie ahead.”
“To the end we are appealing to the Government to rethink its decision and allow the BHA consortium to continue to supply the NHS via a local procurement model or via inclusion on to the current HNS PPE supplier framework. This would go a long way to securing local jobs for local people, whilst protecting a small part of the UK manufacturing sector”
University Hospitals Birmingham has indicated that it will continue to purchase surgical gowns from the Birmingham Hospitals Alliance consortium out of its own funding in the short term, to ensure that it continues to have access to the UK made gowns.