Lancashire sources more than a month of PPE kit - but question mark hangs over whether it will arrive

Lancashire has ordered a haul of personal protective equipment (PPE) which would see the county through the expected peak of the coronavirus outbreak – but there are “no guarantees” that it will be delivered.

Tuesday, 21st April 2020, 10:13 am

The multi-million pound purchase has been sourced largely from China and it is hoped that the sought-after kit will arrive in several stages over the coming weeks.

If the order is fulfilled in full, it would provide between four and six weeks’ worth of equipment for key workers on the frontline.

It was arranged by the Lancashire Resilience Forum (LRF), the umbrella group of organisations co-ordinating the county’s coronavirus response. The organisation’s Gold Command, Lancashire Constabulary deputy chief constable Terry Woods, told reporters that the first drop had arrived on Monday morning and that the early indications were encouraging.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Lancashire is attempting to look after itself when it comes to the sought-after kit

“We weren’t expecting high numbers in the first consignment – but we have had a check of it at the airport and it’s as good as promised and in the quantities promised.

“There are no guarantees that [the remainder] is going to be provided in the quantities [ordered]…but I think we will have swum the Channel if we achieve that.

“As a county, we make no assumptions that anybody else is going to look after us – we are charged with protecting our people as best we can,” DCC Woods said, adding that some nationally-arranged emergency deliveries had also landed in Lancashire, but lasted only for days rather than weeks.

The imported PPE will be available to key workers such as care staff, public transport workers and refuse collectors. While the NHS has its own national supply chain, DCC Woods confirmed that the consignment would be shared with the healthcare sector if it was deemed to be the most in need.

The distribution of the equipment across all sectors will be determined by a real-time risk assessment of what any service needs at any given time.

“As best as we possibly can, we will save life and protect people – it doesn’t really matter what the organisation is. If the NHS got to a [level of] criticality that came above others, they would get the kit.

“There may come a point where [transport] is the most important thing to look at, because if that crumbles, the whole system around it might crumble as well.

“We’re trying to get an early warning system for organisations [that might be heading for difficulty] and try to do an intervention. If that intervention fails…we’re going to have to make the ultimate decision about who gets what. I really wouldn’t want to get to that, but we’re prepared for it,” DCC Woods said.

He added that local modelling indicated that peak in hospital admissions and deaths from Covid-19 in the county would be around mid-May – by which point it is hoped that all of the recently-ordered PPE will have arrived.

“The truth is that it is very challenging. People are appropriately using the PPE because they need to, [but] Lancashire has one of the biggest county populations – and it is a significant amount of kit we’re burning through.

“We have haven’t had any absolute crisis point [to date], because of the work we’re doing in sourcing, fetching and shifting the kit,” DCC Woods said.