Free personal protective equipment (PPE) for GP practices and their staff has been extended until 31 March 2024, or until stocks are depleted, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said.
The extension is to protect frontline healthcare staff, including general practices nurses, from Covid as part of the government’s living with Covid-19 strategy during a ‘challenging period’ of global inflation and cost of living pressures.
However, this extension will act as a ‘transitional’ period away from centrally funded PPE, according to the DHSC.
The scheme was initially introduced in 2020 when the wholesale market was struggling to respond to the increased demand for PPE due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
At this time, the DHSC purchased a ‘significant stock’ of personal protective equipment which was centrally funded and provided free of charge to healthcare providers to ensure they could access it.
The DHSC committed to providing this free personal protective equipment until March 2021, however this was then extended until the end of June 2021, and again until the end of March 2022, then until the end of March 2023.
This most recent extension until March 2024, or until stocks are depleted, hopes to transition the health service away from centrally funded personal protective equipment.
The DHSC said: ‘While the PPE supply chain has now stabilised, our aim is to make sure that health and social care workers continue to receive the PPE they need.
‘Continued government intervention in the PPE market has limited other actors in this part of the market. In 2023 to 2024, DHSC will only be supplying PPE until its stocks are depleted – this transitional approach will support the move towards living with Covid-19 and allow other actors to enter the Covid-19 PPE market.’
It added that it will publish further information about when they expect to run out of specific types of PPE by April 2023.
See guidance and further information about accessing free PPE and the PPE portal here.
A version of this article first appeared in Management in Practice