NEARLY seven million items of vital personal protection equipment (PPE) were delivered to frontline health workers from an East Lothian hub in the first year of the pandemic.

In total, 4.6m gloves, 1.2m masks and 1.025m aprons were issued from East Lothian Community Hospital’s PPE hub to opticians/dentists, GP surgeries, care providers and NHS staff.

Alison Macdonald, chief officer, East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership, told a meeting of the East Lothian Integration Joint Board’s audit committee on Tuesday that, initially, the delivery of PPE had to be stored in the hospital library.

She said that it was the only space big enough to keep the boxes of PPE which were distributed through an NHS central hub.

And she said the biggest storage issue for the boxes of stock was keeping it safe.

She told the meeting: “What we had to do was secure it because we had to stop people who did not need it procuring it.

“There was PPE disappearing from wards which was quite widely known at the time.”

The scale of the operation was outlined for the first time in an audit of the PPE stocks held by the East Lothian hub during its first year.

The internal audit gave the operation a ‘moderate assurance’ rating after highlighting some areas of recording deliveries and distribution had not been recorded normally.

Incidents where infection control meant deliveries were not signed for raised concerns from auditors.

And recommendations included ensuring detailed guidelines for recording stock were in place in the future as it noted many of those brought in for the rapid set up of the hub were volunteers or staff from other areas who did not normally work with stock.

The IJB’s chief finance officer Claire Flanagan told the board the audit findings had to be seen in the context of the pandemic.

She said: “In terms of rapid response in setting up this hub, it followed all the national guidelines and processes.

“To put the recommendations in context, at the peak of the pandemic a lot of people delivering or receiving PPE were adhering to restrictions so we did not feel it was appropriate to ask them to sign papers with pens.”

Mrs Macdonald said she recalled “nightly” conversations with Scottish Government and procurement managers at the beginning of the pandemic as they tried to co-ordinate PPE supplies across the country.

She added: “It was really about getting the PPE to the people who needed it.”

The internal audit report, carried out by Duncan Stainbank for the IJB, was praised by GIllian Woolman from Audit Scotland  who said she had forwarded it to colleague as reviews get underway over PPE stock across Scotland.

It can be found here