A leaked official report from the organisation responsible for delivering health and social care services in Edinburgh has shown the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) for key workers is still a “concern”.
The report, from chief officer Judith Proctor of the Lothian Integrated Joint Board which includes Edinburgh City Council and NHS Lothian, sets out concerns over the lack of PPE for frontline staff.
It also states that NHS staff will only be able to be tested for coronavirus using a drive-through test centre.
Dated April 8, the report states that limited PPE has been prioritised for “essential health and social care services”, and that the supply and distribution of PPE for social care “remains a key risk”
It adds that “concerns remain” with the supply of appropriate PPE for “essential services” in Edinburgh.
Opposition MSPs including the Conservative’s shadow health minister Miles Briggs and Scottish Labour’s health spokesman Monica Lennon said the report is “extremely concerning” and “busts” the Scottish Government’s assurances that there is an adequate supply of PPE, labelling it “complete nonsense”.
The report states: “While significant progress has been made to develop PPE pathways across Edinburgh (and indeed Scotland), the supply chains remains complicated and concerns remain that essential services may not have access to appropriate PPE requirements, as set out in relevant guidance.”
More than 1,000 PPE kits including aprons, gloves, masks and face shields will be handed out to frontline staff in the coming days by the council, the report says.
It adds there are no plans for a ‘walk in' style test centre for staff despite “substantial staff absences” across the Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership.
“A constraint of the staff testing protocol is that staff will have to drive through the testing centre,” the report states.
“There are no plans to provide a ‘walk in’ testing facility at this point. Employees testing negative do not currently receive a notification.”
However, the report states there is work ongoing to develop a text message service to notify every staff member tested of their result, positive or negative.
NHS Lothian claimed the text service for test results has been in place for more than a week, despite what is written in the report.
The revelations in the report have been slammed by opposition parties, with Scottish Labour’s Monica Lennon stating that the report cannot be “brushed aside with spin”.
The Central Scotland MSP and health spokesman said: “This leaked report busts the Scottish Government’s mantra that PPE is in adequate supply.
“The risks to social care highlighted in this report cannot be brushed aside with spin. The lives of vulnerable people and care staff are on the line.
“It’s just not credible for Nicola Sturgeon and Jeane Freeman to stand up on telly every day and tell the nation that Scotland has an adequate supply of PPE. In Lothian and across the country people on the frontline will tell you this is complete nonsense.
“As well as sorting the PPE crisis immediately, they must rapidly expand testing for NHS and social care staff. COVID-19 is having a huge mental toll on frontline staff and rejecting them for testing or not informing them of test results is bad for morale.”
The Scottish Conservative’s shadow health minister Miles Briggs added that the issues surrounding the supply of PPE must be addressed “as a matter of urgency”.
He said: “It is extremely concerning that the Scottish Government are still having issues in the distribution of PPE equipment to essential service.
“The distribution of life saving PPE equipment must be addressed as a matter of urgency to protect those who are most vulnerable in the community.
“NHS Lothian staff are putting their own lives at risk on a daily basis to care for everyone who comes through their door and Covid-19 testing must be as accessible as possible for them.
“Clear lines of communication must be put in place so that NHS staff who are tested for Coronavirus can find out the results of their tests.
“I have written to Jeane Freeman to highlight these concerns and calling on the Scottish Government to double their efforts in the distribution of PPE equipment.””
Labour's Edinburgh South MSP Daniel Johnson added: “This is clear evidence of where the assurances from the government are not necessarily carrying though to reality on the front line and this is a very sharp example of that.
“There are quite a number of critical areas such as business support and PPE that the government need to get a grip on.
“They need to get on top of the issues and increasingly that doesn’t seem to be happening.”
Edinburgh City Council’s leader, the SNP’s Adam McVey, said the safety of frontline staff was paramount.
The council have issued 26,000 face masks for use by staff, with hand gel/sanitiser, gloves, masks and aprons also being purchased and supplied by the council’s commercial and procurement services.
Cllr McVey said: “It’s vital our frontline health and social care workers have the right personal protective equipment when working with vulnerable people during the Coronavirus outbreak.
“Their safety is paramount and our procurement team has been working tirelessly to make sure we can get national and local supplies to our social care staff.”
Dr Tracey Gillies, the medical director of NHS Lothian, said: “Keeping staff and patients safe is our number one priority and we have a range of measures in place to safeguard them, including the use of PPE.
“Following the publication of national guidance for acute and community settings, we have produced clear instructions for our staff to make sure they can know which PPE is required in different situations to try and ease any concern and anxiety among staff, patients and families.
“PPE Stocks are coordinated nationally, by Scottish Government, and then distributed throughout health boards areas. A specific PPE and critical supplies group meets regularly throughout each day to monitor supplies, ensure stocks are arriving at the correct locations throughout acute and community settings and identify any issues as they arise.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Government denied there was a problem with the supply of PPE to frontline health and social care staff and disagreed with the report’s statement that supply was still a “concern” and a “key risk”.
They said: “The safety of our social care and health workforce is an absolute priority. The Scottish Government’s joint statement with the unions and Cosla this week explains our clear position on PPE in social care and the Government’s commitment to taking all possible steps to ensure all necessary supplies are made available to the workforce with the greatest possible urgency.
“As the Health Secretary announced last week, the Scottish Government has introduced four direct supply lines for PPE, a streamlined ordering system for all staff who need PPE and a new dedicated email address for any health or social care worker who has any concerns about PPE supply to make contact with us immediately.
“Over the last few weeks, over 50 millions of units of PPE have been distributed to protect people from the COVID-19 pandemic, and we have adequate supplies of the PPE equipment we need. Where the Scottish Government is alerted to any local issue about PPE availability, action is taken immediately to address these.
“We are working urgently with Health Boards to increase the amount of testing being carried out and are on target to be delivering 3,500 tests a day by the end of this month.
“As of April 8, NHS Scotland health boards estimate that approximately 8,300 health and social care keyworkers or family members had been tested. We expect that figure to continue to rise considerably in the days to come.”