PPE – A Supplier’s Tale
This week we had a chat with one of the busiest men in the country. Tim Lockett is Chairman of Deliver Net, leading suppliers to the social care sector of PPE, Personal Protective Equipment.
Based in Yorkshire, his company has been proudly supporting the care home sector for over twenty-five years. Since the Coronavirus emerged, PPE, or the lack of it, has become a daily feature in our news feeds. The serious consequences of having insufficient protection whilst going about your role in a caring setting have been widely documented. There’s no debate over whether or not it is necessary – the bigger question on everybody’s lips is “Where can I get some?”
Here at Insequa we thought our social care audience would be interested to hear from someone at the sharp end of the PPE resourcing problem, to gain more insight into the difficulties.
Six questions about PPE Supply
Insequa: Which PPE products are most in demand by social care during the Coronavirus pandemic?
TL: We’ve seen an exponential rise in demand for aprons. The whole country has been caught out by that. We’ve addressed the problem by flying product in and we’re confident in our supply chain. We’re now planning for the next three months because this is a marathon not a sprint.
At the moment we are able to supply our existing customers, but there is an acute national shortage. Vinyl powder free gloves are the most highly consumed product in the care sector. There’s very little use of latex gloves due to allergy concerns. Vinyl gloves are a lower cost product and for most processes within a care environment, unless it involves blood, they are perfectly fine. Vinyl gloves account for about 80 % of sales and the rest are Nitrile gloves. All vinyl gloves are produced in China where supply has been interrupted – coupled with huge demand from all over the globe it makes sourcing them challenging. Additionally, 95% of Nitrile gloves are manufactured in Malaysia who are still on lockdown so that’s causing delays in supplies, too. We’re currently waiting for a quote on a new delivery, so I anticipate more product in the pipeline soon.
We talked about a tenfold increase in demand for aprons, well there’s a 10-thousand-fold increase in demand for masks. It’s impossible to plan for that kind of increase. When the virus first emerged, there was feverish scrambling around for masks. First there was a scrambling around for any mask that moved, whether frankly it was appropriate or not. There are different types of masks for different purposes. It’s not about suitability it’s about application. People are interested in getting hold of the masks which filter out airborne particles and offer higher protection, but they’re interested in all masks across the board.
Face visors and shields are a new product being produced widely in a variety of ways, including on 3D printers. We’ve found a manufacturer who can produce 500,000 a week and I’m considering purchasing their entire current stock for next week so we can supply it to the social care sector. Visors look like they’re going to be a popular choice because you can wear them without too much soreness and discomfort, and you’re not having to touch near your eyes.
Insequa: Tell us about the supply chain?
TL: Most of the stock comes from China and some from Europe. We have containers on their way which we ordered back in December. We’ve already placed our orders for December this year, 2020. We have a great relationship with our supplier who is reliable and robust, but they only have the delivery slots that they have, and more importantly, production slots in the factories have become a big issue. Since the crisis began, we have made over 100 emergency Covid 19 deliveries, we have had seven vans making deliveries all over the country, seven days a week.
Insequa: How can care providers make life easier for you?
TL: It’s been such a busy time and I’ve had an office team working around the clock processing thousands of emails requesting PPE. There are protocols to follow and we need to know that products are being sent to legitimate care organisations. With this in mind, if you are asked for specific information about your organisation such as CQC registration details, it may hold things up if you don’t provide it. Simply put, if you want to help us to help you get your products as quickly as we can, please supply us with the information we request.
Insequa: Tell us something surprising about your experience supplying PPE in the pandemic?
TL: How the prices have risen in this crisis. Whether it’s government driven or commercially driven. I can 100% confirm that we have not increased the price of a single product we offer, as long as the price we pay remains the same. A container of aprons that costs about £40,000 can sell on the black market for £500,000. So, yes, the profiteering surprises and saddens me. I anticipated an increase in prices, but not to the scales we are seeing.
Insequa: What about the future?
TL: I’m an optimist so I’d like to think lessons will be learned from this. Next time we will all be better prepared, but we need to start planning now. The demand on health and social care services in the next twenty years is going to grow massively. There’s a looming tsunami of people born in the 1960s who will be needing the services of the NHS and social care in the not too distant future, and if viruses stick around, that’s going to be a problem. I would like to see more international collaboration – you don’t need a facemask factory in every country. We’re not talking about hugely complicated products here.
Insequa: What’s next in your diary?
TL: It’s an incredibly busy time. The phone is ringing off the hook. I was even talking on Radio 5 Live the other day! Our first priority is always to our existing customers as they have been loyal clients for over a decade, but that’s not to say we won’t deal with new customers. At the moment this is an emergency response we’re dealing with, and if we can help, we will.
Learn more about the PPE products available from Tim and the team at Deliver Net.
And if you need support with any tender writing, policy and compliance issues relating to Coronavirus, Business Continuity Plans or Case Study guidance, visit our dedicated page here or call us on 0115 896 3999 for a chat with our friendly team of social care experts.