Online PPE shop launches for optical practices

The platform, established by LOCSU and Primary Eyecare Services, aims to help optometrists to source and order supplies of personal protective equipment

gloves and masks
Getty/Yevhenii Orlov

The Local Optical Committee Support Unit (LOCSU) and Primary Eyecare Services (PES) have collaborated to launch an online shop to make supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) available for optometrists to purchase, and has already seen an “unprecedented” demand for supplies.

Whilst access to PPE is “critical” for practices to deliver the new COVID-19 Urgent Eyecare Service (CUES), in a statement the two groups highlighted: “Sourcing and securing PPE is a significant difficulty at present, and a major obstacle for individual practices.”

Operating on a non-profit model, the website aims to offer the recommended range of PPE, such as masks, aprons, face visors and gloves, at the lowest available price for optometrists, with a free delivery option also available.

Demand for the service has been so high, that supplies on the site sold out within 24 hours of going live.

We have seen unprecedented demand since the PPE shop launched on Monday evening

Dharmesh Patel, chief executive officer, Primary Eyecare Services

Commenting on the launch of the site, Mike Fegan, chair of LOCSU and PES, said: “Access to PPE has been a huge problem and I hope that this initiative goes some way to ensuring that all practices can access the PPE that they need.”

Under the joint initiative, PES will purchase the equipment, facilitate practice orders and manage distribution for practices wishing to make a purchase. The online shop is open to all practices in England, regardless of affiliation with the company.

“It is clear there is a PPE challenge for the whole sector,” Dharmesh Patel, chief executive officer of Primary Eyecare Services told OT. He explained that the collaboration was a “sensible way forward to be able to collectively support the whole sector” with LOCSU supporting all LOC areas, and PES using its scale to leverage some economies and facilitate the process.

Stock availability will be monitored and order quantities limited, the groups confirmed, in order to ensure the maximum number of practices can benefit from the PPE supplies.

“We have seen unprecedented demand since the PPE shop launched on Monday evening and this means items are already out of stock,” Mr Patel commented, explaining: “In this short period we have had orders totalling 1000 boxes of masks, 1000 boxes of gloves, 500 rolls of aprons and 750 face shields – so in total over 200,000 individual pieces of PPE. Clearly there has been a high initial demand for the supplies.”

Mr Patel continued: “We are working constantly to ensure we maintain a supply chain – we advise those still looking to place orders to check the online portal each day as it will be updated every day.”