British Plastics Federation responds to the government’s PPE Strategy
The British Plastics Federation (BPF) was pleased to see the publication of the government’s Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Strategy, which details how the government is preparing for a second wave of COVID-19 or a concurrent pandemic alongside usual seasonal pressures.
BPF members have been absolutely critical to the UK’s efforts in fighting COVID-19 and we are pleased the contribution of plastics companies has been recognised.
The BPF has helped to source plastics companies across the UK that were capable of modifying their manufacturing practices to produce PPE and other vital COVID-19-related supplies and a significant portion of our membership is now contributing to the global fight against the pandemic.
These companies have helped to ensure millions of face shields and visors have been provided to hospitals across England, Scotland and Wales. BPF members have also provided hospitals with plastic parts for ventilators, clinical waste sacks, and aprons for NHS staff, as well as millions of bottles for much-needed hand sanitiser.
However, we would like to make it clear that the BPF fully supports the use of reusable and washable face coverings wherever possible - but in some settings, such as hospitals, this is not always advisable as plastic surgical facemasks, for example, provide a greater level of protection but need to be disposed of safely to prevent the spread of infection.
Alongside other organisations, the BPF supported Keep Britain Tidy’s social media campaign encouraging people to dispose of disposable masks, gloves and other PPE responsibly, rather than littering them.
Prior to COVID-19, less than 1% of PPE was manufactured in the UK but by December 2020 domestic supply is anticipated to meet 70% of forecasted demand in England for all categories of PPE, excluding gloves.
This is an extraordinary achievement and many BPF members, some of which are mentioned in the strategy, have helped to achieve this.
We caution against complacency, however, as manufacturers have necessarily invested a lot of time and money in modifying their operations and supply chains to meet demand, and domestic PPE supplies cannot simply be turned on and off.
Businesses require a degree of certainty and guarantees that orders will be honoured, in addition to as much transparency as possible about existing stocks and ongoing demand. This will allow businesses to plan appropriately and avoid unwelcome shocks during times that are already presenting unprecedented challenges.
The PPE Strategy states that next year the Department for Health and Social Care intends to start transitioning to a new model and key considerations include questions about maintaining the UK’s manufacturing base and the sustainability of a separate PPE supply chain.
We urge in-depth consultation with industry to begin as soon as possible. PPE manufacturers need a clear understanding of expected demand going forward so that the right investments can be made in time and so that businesses are not inadvertently harmed when they are playing a vital role in helping the country to function safely.