Coronavirus: Company making PPE 'dropped like a stone'

Image caption,
Polythene UK says it has pallets of PPE "as far as the eye can see"

A polythene bag manufacturer has been left with seven million items of personal protective equipment (PPE) after being "dropped like a stone", it has claimed.

Polythene UK started making the aprons during the first lockdown.

Managing director James Woollard said its orders were cancelled "overnight" leaving it in a "horrendous" situation.

But the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said huge global demand had created a "highly competitive market".

Mr Woollard said the Witney-based company supplied the PPE packed loose, and was dropped once the NHS could get hold of PPE on a roll.

He said it was also impacted by cheaper PPE from overseas.

'No warning'

Mr Woollard first had the idea to start making aprons when orders for his regular products stopped during lockdown.

The company adapted a design used to make jackets for lambs, and soon had orders of 1.2 million.

He said: "We started manufacturing these things as fast as we could."

Image caption,
Managing director James Woollard - seen here trying on one of the aprons - said the company was dropped with no warning

The company made 30 million items of PPE in total, but demand suddenly fell.

It has since given away a million items to care homes for free.

The company has already lost £160,000 because of the project, with pallets of PPE stockpiled "as far as the eye can see".

Mr Woollard said: "We naively thought that because we were there when the pandemic hit that these guys would be there to help us… [but there was] no warning at all."

Image caption,
The company made 30 million items of PPE in total

Ian Hudspeth, leader of Oxfordshire County Council, called the situation "unfortunate".

He said: "It's disappointing that he has been left with all this supply because he changed his production so he was able to step up and manufacture aprons which were massively needed at the time."

A DHSC spokesperson said it received an "extraordinary response" to its call for PPE and "all offers were prioritised based on volume, price, quality and lead time, with proper due diligence carried out on contracts".

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