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Sufficient supply of PPE for frontline workers in NI, health minister says

Robin Swann made the comment as he visited one of the main distribution centres where the first consignment of the 5.5m item order arrived earlier.

There is “sufficient supply” of personal protective equipment for frontline workers in Northern Ireland ahead of the coronavirus surge, Robin Swann has said.

The region’s health minister was speaking as the first delivery of a 5.5 million item order of PPE arrived in Belfast.

Mr Swann saw the boxes of masks and aprons stacked high at one of the main distribution centres on Monday.

The first consignment included 1.3 aprons million and 307,800 FFP3 respirator masks.

Type IIR masks and goggles will be among the next deliveries.

It comes after concern was expressed by nurses about the supply of FFP3 masks, and the issue sparked rows within the Stormont executive.

On Friday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that Northern Ireland would receive five million items of PPE.

The first batch arrived in the region early on Monday with the remainder of the order expected over the coming days.

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Northern Ireland health minister Robin Swann during a visit to a Personal Protection Equipment distribution centre in Belfast (Michael Cooper/PA)

Northern Ireland health minister Robin Swann during a visit to a Personal Protection Equipment distribution centre in Belfast (Michael Cooper/PA)

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Northern Ireland health minister Robin Swann during a visit to a Personal Protection Equipment distribution centre in Belfast (Michael Cooper/PA)

Mr Swann visited the south Belfast warehouse which is part of the HSC’s Business Services Organisation.

He said there is “sufficient PPE supply” for the current demand and efforts will continue to actively model projected demand.

There is expected to be a second surge of Covid-19 later this year.

The minister also paid tribute to the teams that have been “putting in a lot of time” to make sure the supply is distributed across the region.

“The challenge to us is to make sure we have the PPE in the right place at the right time, the stock is here to support our staff in what they are doing at this crucial time,” he said.

“I want to make clear that we have sufficient PPE supply for current demand and will continue to actively model projected demand.

“As I have stated, there’s not a country in the world that can definitively say it has enough PPE in stock, given the global uncertainty about the path this virus will take.

“We are continuing to proactively pursue all feasible PPE supply routes, both international and local.”

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said the UK government stands ready to provide more PPE.

“The outbreak of coronavirus is the biggest challenge we have faced in a generation which is why the UK government has put in place an unprecedented package of measures to support the whole of the UK through this challenging time,” he said.

“I am pleased we have been able to move quickly to provide five million additional items of PPE to the Northern Ireland Executive, and we stand ready to provide more in the weeks ahead.

“We will continue to work closely with the NI Executive to do everything it takes to get through this together.”

Mr Swann also acknowledged staff concerns on PPE.

“That’s why I’m here because I want to show those health staff we have the PPE here,” he said.

“I recognise that it’s not enough for me to simply say our stocks are significant or sufficient for current pressures.

“We need to make sure our distribution and deployment to all frontline settings is the best it can be – and that all staff know where to turn within their organisations when they have concerns or questions.

“Frontline settings include hospitals, ambulance crews, primary care Covid centres, care homes, domiciliary care workers and other parts of the system where staff are working flat out to care for people.”

Newly updated UK-wide NHS PPE guidance has been issued in recent days, providing detailed guidelines on the types of PPE required for different clinical settings.

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, Royal College of Nursing and Royal College of Midwives were involved in developing the guidance.

PA