Britain’s National Health Service has been severely hit by procurement issues over disposable aprons, due to the closure of a factory run by its main supplier.
The supply company, HPC, had its leading Chinese factory closed down during a government crackdown on pollution. HPC has since opened three new factories that meet pollution standards, but NHS supplies have remained desperately low since the end of last summer.
NHS staff claim that the replacement aprons are of lower quality and are unfit for purpose as they tear easily and cannot be tied around. Employees are required to wear a new apron for every patient they see in order to prevent the spread of infection.
“This issue has been going on for the last four to five months and the implications have been widespread and serious,” Health Service Journal quoted an NHS employee as saying. “Whether it’s someone doing procedures or nursing staff providing patient care, they can’t afford to be pulling torn aprons off or looking for a right-sized one.”
Workers have been forced to use DHSC emergency stock held in reserve for major emergencies such as a pandemic. A spokesperson for the Health Care Supply Organisation, representing NHS procurement staff, approved of the decision to release emergency stock, saying:
“Plastic aprons are a basic consumable product and supply challenges show how important it is in a global market to get these things right.”
Nigel Watson of Polyco Healthline, on behalf of HPC, urged NHS Supply Chain to monitor consumer issues with the new aprons, and claimed that a change of specifications as well as supply chain problems had led to the drop in quality.
In a joint statement, NHS Supply Chain, DHL Supply Chain and the NHS Business Services Authority claimed they were working closely with HPC to resolve quality issues. The NHS requires approximately 1.75 million aprons every week.