In the last couple of weeks the Trust has experienced widespread media coverage in relation to the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), most particularly in relation to gowns. Most recently the focus has been on the Trust’s provision of two-piece coveralls, widely referred to as ‘cagoules’.
Unfortunately, this coverage has resulted in some misinformation and misunderstanding. We believe in being as honest with the public as we are with our staff, and so we’d like to set out our position here.
On 8 April it became apparent that we had very limited supplies of long-sleeved gowns which, according to national guidance, are to be worn as part of the PPE for working in the higher risk areas or for the higher risk procedures, eg aerosol-generating procedures. We immediately began working with other trusts across West Yorkshire to ask for mutual aid. However, it was quickly clear that stocks were limited not just across the region, but nationally.
We therefore took steps, with the support of our staff, to conserve our stocks. We also escalated our request for more gowns through national supply chain routes, and began to explore all our possible options to secure further supplies of gowns, one of which was to procure 6000 fluid repellent two-piece coveralls as an alternative should we run out of disposable fluid repellent gowns.
By 17 April it became clear, as has widely been reported, that the national shortage of gowns was unlikely to be resolved in the short term. The Trust therefore took the decision to supply these reusable coveralls to staff, from Saturday 18 April along with extensive guidance and training about their use.
We fully recognise the uncertainty around PPE has been a source of distress to our staff and the use of these particular coveralls is not ideal: they are more uncomfortable to wear and more laborious to take on and off. However, our first priority is to keep our staff safe: these coveralls comply with Public Health England guidance and represented our best option in the absence of certainty about future deliveries of gowns. If we’d had a better option, we’d have taken it.
As of 21 April, the Trust has taken delivery of 2000 gowns from the national supply chain, which are already in use, alongside the coveralls. However, in the absence of certainty around further deliveries, the Trust continues to explore every possible option. We remain hopeful that disposable long sleeved gowns will be arriving from Spain next week. And this week Chief Executives in West Yorkshire have agreed to set up a procurement team dedicated to sourcing PPE for West Yorkshire, ideally from local companies, so that we are not solely reliant on the national supply chain.
Nothing is more important to us than our staff’s safety and, throughout this unsatisfactory situation, Mid Yorkshire staff have continued to be magnificent. Each and every day they give so much of themselves to care for our patients and the Trust could not be more proud of them.