Caregivers in Tayside are still unable to buy lifesaving disposable gloves, masks and aprons from UK medical wholesalers.
Bosses at care-at-home firm Newlands Care Angus have hit out at wholesaler Gompels for refusing an order for disposable gloves and aprons a fortnight after the company said it would support the delivery of PPE to Scotland.
In an email to the Angus firm – seen by The Courier – a Gompel’s saleswoman wrote: “The items marked PHE in your basket are for care homes, domiciliary care and care agencies within England.
“We have been given very strict instructions by Public Health England (PHE) for these items.”
The English public health body said it has “not instructed any company to prioritise PPE for any one nation.”
The body has, however, distributed PPE equipment to wholesalers and asked the companies to reserve a portion of the stock – including masks, aprons, gloves – only for caregivers in England.
The Scottish Government has chosen to allocate its share of PPE stocks in a different way.
Daniela Matwiejuk, communications and office manager at Newlands Care Angus, said: “To mark particular PPE items as only for supply for England is absolutely unacceptable.”
She said Gompels had refused her company’s order even though they were a regular customer.
She said the dispute with Gompels had worsened an already difficult hunt to source sufficient quantities of PPE.
“The situation is absolutely tragic. There are times when, after days of chasing companies, we get a delivery, but that is never nearly enough and is always delayed.
“This puts all of our vulnerable, primarily elderly, clients with many underlying conditions, at extreme risk.
“This also puts our employees at extreme risk, and I’m not even mentioning the high levels of stress that we’re all experiencing.”
She said the company had been accessing PPE stocks from hubs set up by the Scottish Government but supplies were not sufficient.
“Our clients cannot put their lives on hold and be left to their own while we wait for the PPE to arrive. They do not deserve such neglect.”
Forfar councillor Lynne Devine, SNP, said: “It’s very disappointing to find out that care home companies are still being told that their supplier can’t supply to Scotland, only England, after the Westminster Government said that that was not the case.”
A spokeswoman for trade body Scottish Care – which raised issues with Gompels last month – said it was “disappointed” and “concerned” the matter persists.
She said: “We raised this issue of suppliers prioritising English care companies last month and Scottish Care has had conversations with these suppliers to address this.
“We also welcomed Gompels decision to support delivery of PPE to Scotland on April 15. Therefore, we are disappointed to hear of reports that this prioritisation is still taking place.
“During these challenging times, all parts of the UK are facing PPE shortages, so we must work together as a nation and distribute PPE fairly across the UK to help each other stand up to Covid-19.”
A UK government department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Through our four-nation approach, we are working closely with the devolved administrations to co-ordinate the distribution of PPE across the UK.
“To date, Scotland has received millions of pieces of PPE from central UK stocks.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Scotland has our own pandemic stock held by the national procurement organisation National Services Scotland (NSS) and distributed by the Scottish Government and NSS, rather than through private distributors such as this supplier, which holds some items that are part of the UK Government’s stockpile.
“Certain items provided by this supplier are part of the UK Government’s stockpile, which means that they are supplying them to care homes in England.
“If social care providers including care homes in Scotland are unable to procure adequate PPE from private suppliers, they can access support from their local social care PPE Hub.”
A member of the Gompels sales team said the company had been “inundated with emails” requesting PPE and agreed the situation “is not clear.”
She said the company had stock of some items – such as disposable plastic aprons – that it sold to existing customers, including those in Scotland and Wales.
It also held stock of other items provided by Public Health England, including masks, aprons and gloves, which have been reserved for care homes and agencies in England
“Please be advised we only have stock of gloves at this time,” she added.
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