Coronavirus: ‘Clipper’ PPE service needed now, councils urge

Dwindling supplies of vital life-saving personal protective equipment for frontline care workers will run out within days amid the delayed roll-out of the Government’s new supply website, the Local Government Association has warned.

The Government’s “Clipper” system intends to provide a central hub for the supply and distribution of PPE. However, it is yet to be fully up and running following a delay in going live and could take at least another three weeks before it gets up to speed.

Social care workers and other council service staff continue to risk their lives in keeping essential services going, including supporting our elderly and most vulnerable people, due to a chronic lack of masks, gowns, visors, goggles and other life-saving kit.

The LGA suggests that councils and local areas could each need access to millions of pieces of PPE, including masks, aprons and gloves each week, based on feedback from councils. It said shortages of PPE are hampering efforts to combat the coronavirus and is calling for councils to be given an urgent guarantee that emergency supplies will reach them and their partners while they wait for the Clipper service to be fully operational.

This includes making sure that Local Resilience Forums, which are made up of councils and other emergency services, across the country have confirmation about when to expect future drops of emergency supplies.

Councillor Howard Sykes, LGA Liberal Democrat Group Leader, said:

“Social care staff and all those working in frontline roles are doing an incredible and dangerous job in challenging circumstances, given the chronic national shortfall of PPE. We must make sure our vital social care workers have all the protection and equipment they need to look after our most elderly and vulnerable.

“Emergency drops have been helpful, but they have been sporadic and inconsistent, with some supplies not always enough to meet local demand.

“Councils recognise that starting a new supply and distribution system from scratch is a huge undertaking, but we cannot afford any more delays. The Government’s online ordering system needs to be fully operational as soon as possible, so that councils and care providers can directly request that critical PPE gets to the frontline where it is desperately needed.”

It comes as councils are continuing to have to appeal to local businesses, manufacturers and other organisations to see if they can help supply unused or produce any new PPE such as gloves, aprons, goggles and masks.

Care home deaths

Commenting on the very sad news around deaths in care homes, Cllr Richard Kemp, LGA Liberal Democrat Spokesperson on Health and Social Care, said:

“The dreadful figures of deaths in residential care homes released by ONS  should remind us of the low paid and unsung heroes of our care services who rarely get praised or even thanked. We must ensure that they are properly paid and supported in future. We must also ensure that the deaths in homes, care homes and hospices are added speedily to the number of deaths in hospitals so we have a true picture of the total number of COVID-19 deaths”.

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