Supply of PPE to NHS England during the COVID-19 pandemic

24 Apr 2020

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Results from our Survey

With recent news around the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supply across the NHS, we owe it to the candidates we work with to understand the matter better.  For us, their health and safety are not negotiable.  

This led us to develop a questionnaire-based study with our candidates across various specialities and grades.  


The Covid-19 pandemic has challenged healthcare systems across the world, and many have risen to the challenge. The unprecedented demand on healthcare has led to core supplies running out fast. As supplies are depleting quicker than anticipated, the current supply chain infrastructure is finding it challenging to cope with the rise in demand, both across the UK and other nations. The lack of PPE supply is one of the main threats to the doctors, nurses and other frontline workers during the pandemic.  

Throughout our research we have found that this is not an isolated matter in a small number of Trusts, but instead is happening across the nation. Lack of PPE has been highlighted in the media and from core healthcare institutions like the Royal College of Nursing (RCN). They have stated that if PPE supplies are not increased, a walkout from healthcare staff is very likely.  

The government has identified this issue, but we believe there is clearly an urgent need to mobilise the industry and businesses that can help manufacture PPE. Recently, the UK has received a new PPE shipment which relieves the demand for now, but efforts to have a sustainable solution should continue. 

The supply of PPE has been poor in most trusts and core departments 

We wanted to understand the supply across various roles in healthcare, predominantly in hospital facilities and other premises like Care Homes. Over 60% of our respondents across core departments like Anaesthesia, Intensive Care, General Surgery and Acute Care Units responded that there has been a poor supply of PPE.  

Unfortunately, this represents the situation across 60% of the healthcare institutions in our sample, including care homes. 

Source: ProMedical >  

From the RCN survey, we can establish that the core missing kit are surgical masks and eye/face protection.  

Source: Royal College of Nursing – RCN PPE Survey Covid-19 

The shortage in PPE supplies may cause a mass walkout. 

Over 80% of the respondents clearly stated that this is a key component for them to carry out their duty safely. This shows that it will be a crucial factor in their decision to continue working. 

Source: ProMedical >  

There seems to be a common notion that PPE will run out.  82% of respondents have said that this will impact whether they continue working without PPE. If the situation does not improve, the crisis could have a much bigger effect on patients and healthcare staff.  

 We are concerned that the shortage of healthcare staff will increase, adding further pressure to an already stretched NHS system. 

The RCN survey has shown that a small percentage of PPE was donated, especially the most sought-after kits of eye/face protection and surgical masks. However, we call for the government and Department for Health and Social Care to increase their efforts towards the PPE supply chain. 

Source: Royal College of Nursing – RCN PPE Survey Covid-19  

Concerns over personal safety affect most of our candidates

We asked our candidates whether they are working in areas that bring them into contact with Covid-19 sections. Responses showed nearly 76% of our candidates are working on the frontline, spanning across Emergency Departments and Critical Care to Paediatrics and Neonates.  

Source: ProMedical >  

Their concerns were captured on our next question on the demand surge during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic. 88% of those said they had concerns, with 36% saying this situation is deeply concerning. 

Source: ProMedical >  

What can we do to find solutions? 

ProMedical’s core drive is to provide recruitment healthcare solutions, especially to the NHS. It is also our duty to ensure that our doctors and nurses are safe on the frontlines of this pandemic. Some of you asked us to help in providing PPE but we believe that this may not be a good solution to this national problem for these core reasons:  

  • Core PPE manufacturers are inundated with orders due to demand and our ability to order may not be sufficient for all our candidates. 
  • Other manufacturers risk producing PPE that may not be adequate or may be of a standard that provides poor protection. We strongly advise all healthcare professionals and other frontline staff to be extremely cautious about sources of PPE supply. Unregulated PPE could increase your risk of exposure.  
  • Our expertise is customer service: helping doctors and nurses find the work they seek and aiming to reduce the hassle in compliance and administration.   We are not producers of PPE, and it is surely not something we can become adept at within such a short space of time.  

 ProMedical strongly believes that the best help we can offer is to work with candidates to overcome those concerning issues. As every situation is different, we will assess each case and we will engage our proven expertise in liaising with clients to find the best solutions. We would be guided by compliance guidelines, health and safety rules along with common sense to resolve matters for all parties involved. 

We will highlight those concerns from our clients and candidates on the frontlines and continue sharing our data with key governing bodies we engage with: Frameworks, REC, Public Health England and NHS trusts. 

We will always advocate for a sustainable solution, and that the safety of doctors and nurses is not compromised.  



Methodology of the research 

We sent our survey to over 20,000 doctors, nurses and 150 contacts in hospitals. Of those, we received 491 responses from healthcare professionals across 33 NHS Trusts. Despite the low response rate, we believe we have some good insights that come straight from frontline staff regarding the PPE supply.  

There was another survey run from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) that had a much larger response rate and we want to use this in combination with our research on the matter. 

24 Apr 2020 | Leave a comment

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