Regulatory systems responsible for PPE certification assessment and authentication, national and regional procurement of essential PPE could not cope with the sudden need when the first wave of the pandemic hit us in 2020. This is in part due to the historic pathways in place used to access such essential medical kit at a time of need while competing against every other country in the world. Such systems and pathways need to be flexible and agile and the whole process must be able to change the way that it delivers results during the time of an emergency or future pandemic. This whole process needs a relook and can be streamlined with careful construction of a digital platform to aid more seamless acquisition of PPE and medical devices when needed.
Similarly bringing together expertise to find out of the box solutions during a national emergency often requires different skill sets of individuals that may not usually collaborate. Problem solving for complex issues often requires networks of different backgrounds, training and professional disciplines that have to work together and their outputs and progress need careful communication to those in power and the public.
The PPE sourcing issue was a perfect storm of lack of expertise, network and knowledge as prior to COVID-19 the UK manufacturerd very little PPE and most healthcare workers never considered that the masks and gowns that they used everyday were so crucial as protective equipment. COVID has changed this forever. Large scale local PPE manufacturing is a must to future proof against future pandemics. Networks should be created to allow for surges of need for PPE in the UK. Funding must be allocated for PPE innovation, materials science research, nanotechnology and regular disaster management simulations must be carried out to test new pathways.
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