PPE supplier confirms England only policy for care homes

After several days of argument over whether care homes in Wales are prevented from ordering protective equipment reserved for England only, it has emerged there are examples of it happening.

One leading supplier said they are limiting the distribution of PPE to care homes in England.

Gompels said they have been told care homes in Wales and Scotland have alternate arrangements in place.

On their website they wrote "please do not think that this is us discriminating against our lovely and loyal Welsh and Scottish customers."

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The arrangements for supplying PPE to all parts of the UK are set out in a document issued by the Department of Health.

It repeatedly stresses the importance of the four UK nations working together and sharing resources but it also explains that to buy certain items from wholesalers, care providers have to be registered with the Care Quality Commission, which only operates in England.

There is no similar arrangement for care providers registered with the equivalent Welsh body, Care Inspectorate Wales.

The Welsh Government says care homes here should order PPE from their local councils, though the minister who took the daily coronavirus press conference conceded there are problems with distribution.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams said equipment was available but there were "challenges getting the stocks out to the plethora of [social care] settings."

The minister added there was a dedicated phone line for care homes and other users of personal protective equipment, such as GP surgeries, to call for help.

She said the military would also be helping with distribution but she did not mention using commercial suppliers.

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Gompels have updated a statement on their website saying they are "working incredibly hard" to ensure regular customers can continue to buy products.

The statement claims that only three out of 2000 products are restricted for use in England. Those three products are, however, coronavirus protective masks, gloves and aprons.

The leader of Plaid Cymru, Adam Price, has asked the European Union to intervene.

Mr Price argues that the Commission has intervened in the past to protect the free movement of goods, even within a single member state. At present the Commission is trying to stop its members blocking the movement of coronavirus-related supplies across national borders.

The UK government prefers to view the problem as simply a misunderstanding. Suppliers don't always realise that despite its name, Public Health England is sourcing PPE for the whole UK. Senior UK Government sources point out that Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are also free to source their own supplies, whilst still benefiting from a service that serves all four nations.