In a move we believe supports the much predicted swing to near shoring, an established, local manufacturer in the mid-west of England, Wearwell, has been appointed to produce and supply surgical gowns to the UK’s largest NHS trust, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB). The trust, which runs several hospitals in the region alongside community services, currently uses 100,000 surgical gowns per week.

The Birmingham Hospitals Alliance central procurement team realised it was unable to continue relying on international suppliers and the central supply chain, the press release says. It formed a working group and chose two local manufacturers to produce and supply up to 25,000 high-quality surgical gowns per week for NHS Trust use. The gowns will be used as both PPE and for use in operating theatres.

CEO Richard Wright said, “We are very pleased, as a local manufacturer, to be able to supply vital supplies to our local NHS hospitals and support the UHB as it works to diversify its supply chain and build resilience. At present, we’re committed to supplying 10,000 gowns per week and have invested in new machinery and created additional capacity in our Tamworth factory to ensure that we can exceed that volume in coming weeks as needed in order to help the hospitals prepare for the upcoming winter and mitigate against any shortages.”

Dr David Rosser, Chief Executive of UHB, said: “These efforts allow us to build up our resilience as we move into Phase 2 of the Trust’s response to Covid-19 … We have been very fortunate that our procurement team have been successful in obtaining PPE during this time despite national shortages, and we have also received many kind donations. However, we have been too reliant on the international market and central supply centre. We do not want to be in a position where the region is struggling to obtain supplies of PPE again, especially when we enter the winter months and the pressure on the NHS increases dramatically … This working group will allow us build and maintain our resilience as a health service, have oversight over the quality of PPE supplied to us and continue to work with and support our local businesses.”

It’s good to see public procurement teams being recognised for their teamwork and innovation in stepping up to the mark during constraints on critical product supply, and it is equally welcomed that local manufacturing is being given the support it needs and deserves.

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