A new web app is allowing frontline health workers to report shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Recently launched Frontline.Live is being used by NHS staff and other essential workers to highlight where items such as masks, gowns and hand sanitiser are needed.
Workers can tweet which items they need, their work postcode and use the hashtag #FrontlineMap, or an online form if they wish to remain anonymous, with the requests then plotted on an interactive map which can be viewed by policymakers and suppliers.
The Frontline.Live website says that, while it does not connect suppliers directly with hospitals – which must go through official procurement channels – it hopes to recreate a reference resource for the industry.
“We are collecting a database of supplier and useful resources to support timely procurement across all key worker sectors, from hospitals to delivery services. We hope it helps,” it adds.
The platform has been built by a team of volunteers with digital skills.
Thank you care workers for the amazing work you do.— Frontline Live (@FrontlineMap) April 14, 2020
We're here to help you get your PPE needs heard.
Just tweet a pic with #FrontlineMap #workpostcode #PPEneed.
Learn more at https://t.co/7lfHOYfSz8 #PPE #healthcareworkers #Covid19Frontline https://t.co/MVAjC1KTSJ
Katz Kiely, one of the volunteers behind the scheme, said it was created after she and others saw the volume of discussion about PPE online.
“I am in awe of our frontline heroes,” she said.
“Our research revealed that in March, for example, there were over 25,000 mentions of the need for PPE on Twitter.
“The majority were from frontline workers who are keeping us safe. It deeply concerns us that some of our heroes aren’t getting the kit they need to keep themselves protected.
“Time and time again, our team has seen the power of open data and how it helps solve complex problems faster.
“We decided to put those needs on the map to support decision-makers across the UK so they can act faster to get the right supplies to the right places to keep our care workers safe.”
The Government has said millions of pieces of PPE have been delivered to the front line.
However, many workers are reporting shortages, with doctors being forced to wash PPE and reuse it.
Comments gathered by the British Medical Association (BMA) and shared with the PA news agency show how, as recently as Monday, medics were being forced to work without adequate PPE, with some turning to bin liners instead.