Hospitals have been accused of stockpiling personal protective equipment (PPE) amid the coronavirus crisis.
The Times reported that a senior official at NHS Supply Chain, which buys equipment for the health service, said evidence that NHS trusts have been stockpiling PPE was a “big cause for concern”.
According to the newspaper, Rachel Repper said in a presentation to customers that nearly 24,000 containers used to deliver PPE and other hospital supplies had not been returned.
She said: “It indicates that there is stockpiling going on locally because that is where product is being held . . . within hospital estates.”
According to The Times report, Repper said trusts appeared to be stocking up on a number of products including disinfectant wipes, which she said had seen a 355% increase in demand.
She added: “We urge our customers... to really examine the level of ordering that is coming out of your organisations and make sure that it is proportionate to the requirement.”
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Shortages of PPE for NHS staff and care workers have been an ongoing issue throughout the coronavirus crisis, prompting criticism of the government.
There have been widely-reported delays in deliveries of equipment, while one promised consignment of PPE from Turkey reportedly only included half of what was expected.
The latest concerns over stockpiling come as a study found nearly three-quarters of anaesthetists fear for their health due to inadequate supplies of protective equipment.
A survey of Royal College of Anaesthetists (RCOA) members found that more than a quarter of the 2,100 respondents felt pressurised to treat coronavirus patients without adequate PPE.
It also found that 17% were unable to access the protective equipment they needed.
The college said the findings highlighted the “crucial need” to maintain sufficient PPE supplies and the “significant and personal risk” to NHS staff who rely on it to keep them safe.
RCOA president Professor Ravi Mahajan said the survey, published on Thursday, made “concerning” reading.
Yahoo News UK has contacted NHS England for comment.