How Sunderland and South Tyneside have avoided PPE shortages during crisis

Hospital bosses in South Tyneside and Sunderland have not reported shortages of essential personal protective equipment (PPE) throughout the coronavirus outbreak.

File picture from PA
File picture from PA

Lack of masks, gloves and other coverings at healthcare facilities across the country have been blamed for spreading COVID-19 infections, putting staff and patients at risk.

But according to NHS chiefs in South Tyneside, both Sunderland Royal Hospital and South Tyneside District Hospital have been able to maintain necessary supply levels, while care homes have had help to top up stock where needed.

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“We’ve worked really hard locally in South Tyneside and across the [region] to make sure we have managed PPE,” said Matt Brown, director of operations at South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

“[South Tyneside and Sunderland Foundation Trust (STSFT)] has not reported a shortage of PPE to me.

“For care homes and practices, the other members of the health and care family, we’ve worked really hard to get them sufficient PPE.”

Brown was speaking at last month’s (Thursday, May 21) meeting of the CCG’s governing body, which was held by video conference and broadcast via Youtube, in response to questions submitted by the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign (SSTHC).

Tom Hall, director of Public Health at South Tyneside Council, added: “We phone the care homes every single day to check their stock levels.

“We have been able to furnish them with PPE if and when they have been running short and they’ve not been able to get it through their usual routes.”

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But the borough has also been shown to have one of the highest infection rates in the region, although NHS chiefs have warned this could be linked to variations between local testing regimes.

In response to questions from SSTHC on guidelines in place to deal with COVID-19, CCG bosses insisted they were following ‘stringent national guidance’, as well as independent advice from the various royal medical colleges.

However, replying to concerns raised about a lack of information on the ethnicity of those who have died of the virus, health chiefs said such information was currently only available on a national basis.

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They also said they could not comments on resorts NHS staff at in Sunderland and South Tyneside had fallen in or died from coronavirus, adding that would be the responsibility of their employers, such as STSFT.

In a statement, SSTHC said: “We think that the current guidelines on protective equipment and testing do not put human resources and human life as the precious consideration but put PPE as the ‘precious resource’ and main consideration.

“Health workers are speaking out on this everywhere in the country and all kinds of actions are taking place against these criminal negligent government guidelines on protective equipment and testing.

“In addition, we also wish to express our concern at the high number of deaths in South Tyneside and Sunderland, especially with what seems to be a high vulnerability of the population because of the history.”

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