Sector 'faces challenges' in procurement of personal protective equipment

Procurement manager at the Wales Council for Voluntary Action says she is working to find other options for charities

PPE: demand makes it harder to procure (Photograph: Karwai Tang/WireImage)
PPE: demand makes it harder to procure (Photograph: Karwai Tang/WireImage)

The voluntary sector “should not be forgotten” as global demand for personal protective equipment soars. 

Emma Waldron, risk, procurement and governance manager at the Wales Council for Voluntary Action said one of the main challenges the voluntary sector had faced throughout the coronavirus pandemic was securing access to PPE. 

The umbrella body works with organisations such as food banks, those dealing with domestic abuse and women’s aid, and alcohol and drug rehabilitation. 

Waldron said: “Understandably the focus is on the NHS and care homes. What I’ve been trying to do is to make sure these organisations [that WCVA supports] can still access the PPE they need in certain scenarios, such as gloves and masks.”

Waldron worked with the National Procurement Service for Wales to link voluntary organisations with supply routes for PPE. It has been working well so far, but Waldron added that it was important to ensure organisations are purchasing responsibly while global demand for PPE is so high.

“Some organisations that use PPE for the medical-type services they provide have found the suppliers they’ve used in the past aren’t now able to provide any PPE to them because of the demand, so it’s helping them to manage that,” she said.

“People would naturally want to go for the gold standard, but they are reserved for the NHS, so it’s about talking to these organisations about the other options that are available and making sure they’re purchasing responsibly.”

The WCVA has also worked alongside the Competition and Markets Authority in Wales to check prices for PPE to make sure suppliers aren’t exploiting the crisis and to ensure the sector is able to get products at the right price.

Waldron said it was vital for the voluntary sector to have continued access to PPE to safeguard their staff and volunteers, and a lack of PPE could be a barrier.

“The issue that a lot of organisations are facing is that people often carry out a number of jobs," she added. "They don’t necessarily have the procurement expertise to hand, so it’s about understanding the type of equipment they need and the type of prices they’re anticipating to pay."

This article first appeared in Third Sector's sister publication Supply Management

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