Coronavirus (COVID-19): PPE Strategy and Governance Board - summary of Futures Programme work

A summary of the Futures Programme work overseen by the Coronavirus (COVID-19): PPE Strategy and Governance Board.

The PPE Strategy and Governance Board (the Board) was formed in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic to:

  • be accountable for delivering the PPE Sustainability Strategy across all sectors in Scotland
  • be accountable to Scottish Minsters to provide assurance on the supply and demand of PPE
  • manage Ministerial aspirations to have an indigenous supply of PPE

As the pandemic progressed the purpose of the Board changed and updates to their Terms of Reference were published on the Scottish Government (SG) website. 

From June 2021 the Board oversaw the PPE Futures Programme, a collaborative programme of work initiated in response to Audit Scotland’s June 2021 briefing on PPE provision during the pandemic. The aim of the Futures Programme was to plan for new approaches to pandemic PPE which would ensure that we learn from experience, promote innovation, and have strong, sustainable foundations for any future epidemic or pandemic. The Programme was split into nine distinct, but linked, workstreams.

The manufacturing workstream objective was to protect the Scottish PPE manufacturing capacity and capability that has been created in a way that secures best value for taxpayers, meets our broader objectives for PPE, and helps Scottish suppliers to grow and compete globally.

The workstream produced an evaluation of Scotland’s PPE manufacturing base, which outlined work already undertaken to support the sector; export opportunities; and constraints on supporting this sector.

On this workstream’s behalf, Scottish Enterprise produced a state of the market report on Scottish-based PPE manufacturers to inform both this workstream, and the Future Pandemic PPE Supply workstream. The workstream also presented a manufacturing paper to the Board on 3 March 2022. 

There was substantial overlap between the manufacturing workstream and the innovation workstream whose purpose was to focus on the following areas: 

  • reduce environmental impact of PPE use
  • consider users’ experience of wearing PPE
  • make improvements to the process linking Scottish manufacturers with NHS demands

The research carried out by the workstream team in these areas will be used as a basis to inform future work by the Scottish Government’s NHS Sustainability Team. The innovation team also continued work with a Small Business Research Initiative on reusable PPE and decontamination solutions.

The future PPE pandemic supply workstream developed a strategy to ensure Scotland is ready for a future pandemic, whenever it may occur. The future pandemic PPE supply arrangements to be implemented include a collaborative procurement strategy, the creation of a Scottish pandemic PPE stockpile and surge capacity, and the provision of PPE preparedness guidance for those organisations not included in the above arrangements. The workstream also identified the need to produce guidance on Future Pandemic Stand Up Arrangements for PPE supplies.

The primary and social care workstream worked on formulating and implementing policies for PPE provision to primary and social care providers, in collaboration with those wider policy areas and their respective PPE steering groups. This work included monitoring and refinement of supply processes, extension of provision of allocations of PPE to primary care contractors delivering NHS services for up to a year from the previous end date of 31 March 2022, and extending the provision of adult social care PPE hubs to 30 September 2022. 

The PPE stock workstream team carried out work to minimise wastage and maximise the benefit of both PPE purchased during the pandemic and from the stockpile. The workstream administered the donation of PPE to Scottish public sector organisations and charities as well as working with kids or to donate a total of 25.7 million items to Rwanda, Malawi, and Zambia. The team were also involved in work to donate a quantity of expired pandemic stockpile FFP3 masks to research and recycling facilities to develop new reprocessing techniques.

The Third Party Framework workstream managed a procurement framework for third sector and private organisations providing essential public services when their traditional PPE supply routes failed until its closure in October 2021. It also played a role in providing reassurance to those sectors eligible to use it, provided SG with an insight into the demand and supply landscape in non-health and social care settings and ensured that supplies to NHS Scotland were not impacted by the requirements of these sectors. 

The stakeholder engagement workstream activities provided valuable feedback leading to better informed decisions being made while undertaking the work of the PPE Futures Programme. This resulted in a policy to secure future pandemic PPE supplies being agreed by Ministers. Through discussion with stakeholders, partners have been identified for involvement in the implementation phase of this policy. 

The expert advisory group workstream initiated the Expert Clinical Oversight Group (ECOG), to act as a forum for the programme to refer decisions, issues and questions that required expert clinical input. A notable success was their work on the approval and distribution of transparent masks into health and social care settings. They also worked to consider more widely the groups at UK and Scottish levels that took decisions on, or advised on PPE.

The lessons learned workstream identified and reviewed existing lessons learned work from multiple sources in regard to PPE provision during the pandemic. It then ensured they were all appropriately considered by each workstream across the PPE Futures Programme. This work will continue to inform future SG PPE policy and implementation.

The PPE Futures Programme was closed at the final meeting of the Strategy and Governance Board on 28 April 2022. The implementation of the future pandemic PPE supply arrangements will now be taken forward by a new Future Pandemic PPE Supply Implementation Project, with oversight from the Implementation Project Board.

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