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Free PPE for health care providers in England extended into 2023

The Government has extended the provision of centralised, free personal protective equipment for primary care providers in England for another year

optometrist
Getty/ljubaphoto

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has extended the provision of free personal protective equipment (PPE) for health and care staff in England for another year.

Primary care providers, NHS trusts, and adult social care providers will continue to be able to access PPE free of charge until 31 March 2023, or until infection prevention and control guidance is withdrawn or significantly amended.

The move has been welcomed by the AOP, which has highlighted the importance of this provision in the delivery of safe eye care and reducing risk for practitioners and patients.

The announcement follows a public consultation held by the DHSC in October to determine whether the central provision of free PPE to healthcare providers should be extended.

The DHSC noted on the launch of the consultation that, though it had committed to provide PPE until the end of March 2022, in light of the case levels and guidance at the time, it expected “PPE usage to remain at COVID-19 levels beyond March 2022.”

The consultation received over 5000 responses, including primary care providers and community health care services, with 95% of respondents in favour of extending the PPE provision.

Commenting on the news, AOP clinical and professional director, Dr Peter Hampson, said: “We’re pleased to see that PPE has been secured for optometry, alongside others in primary care, for this extended time.”

Describing PPE as an “essential” part of how optical professionals have delivered eye care safely throughout the pandemic, Hampson added: “Its provision funded by the Department of Health and Social Care until spring next year, which is what we’ve been calling for, will ensure eye care can continue to be delivered in the community with a lower risk of infection to optometrists, practice teams and patients.”

In its response to the consultation results, the Government shared that it had decided to extend the PPE service “in order to help protect health and care staff while COVID-19 case levels are still high and high PPE usage is still required by infection prevention and control guidance.” 

Health minister, Edward Argar, commented: “We are extending the offer of free PPE to help relieve pressure on the health and care system, working hand-in-hand with providers to develop a new ordering platform that works best for them.”

The government is in the process of developing a new platform for ordering PPE, which is set to be “quicker and easier to use.” New features included in the updated portal will include ‘quick ordering’ options and status updates.

The DHSC has previously invited optometrist users of its PPE portal to take part in user research to test the new platform. User testing is set to take place this month.

Following a testing period and trial launch, the new PPE portal is expected to be rolled out to eligible users from April.