Hospices still denied access to PPE as Health Secretary insists government is doing 'as much as we can'

Health Secretary Matt Hancock says the government is doing “as much as we possibly can” to supply hospices with personal protective equipment (PPE), after ITV News revealed they could run out within days.

Mr Hancock said there was a global shortage of PPE but “hospices were part of the plan” to increase deliveries of much-needed equipment.

Last week, ITV News reported providers of end of life care were running dangerously low on stocks of masks and gowns after they were denied access to government supplies of PPE.

Unlike NHS hospitals and care homes, hospices in England are not included in the NHS supply chain managed by the government through Supply Chain Coordination Limited (SCCL).

Emails seen by ITV News show Hospice UK, which represents over 200 hospices, had been reassured by members of SCCL they would be allowed access to government supplies, but two weeks on they are still being frozen out.

After initially relying on donations of PPE from schools, tattoo parlours and local organisations, hospices began purchasing their own, but huge price inflation has seen the cost of surgical masks rise by more than 1200%.

It has left Bolton Hospice three days away from running out of protective gowns needed to treat patients with coronavirus.

Like most hospices, they have struggled to find a consistent supply of PPE since the crisis began despite treating patients with the virus.

Twenty per cent of their staff have contracted Covid-19, including senior nurse Gill Oakes. She died last Thursday, aged 53.

Shooting Star Children’s Hospice in Guildford is also still relying on donations.

“We haven’t been able to secure any PPE from the NHS yet,” said Chief Executive Nigel Harding.

“We are relying on our donations from the community to keep us going at the moment. I think the plight we are in is the same in many other hospices.

“We were promised we would be able to access PPE.”

Marie Curie is the biggest independent provider of end of life care in Britain, operating nine UK hospices.

They have just managed to access NHS supply chains, but they still aren’t getting what they need.