Official advice on applying for a PPE export licence – and other PPE updates

Tue 28 Apr 2020
Posted by: Ana Pintor
Trade News

The government has today (Tuesday, 28 April) published fresh guidance for producers of personal protective equipment (PPE) who wish to export beyond the EU and EFTA member states, including Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland.

The supply of PPE to the UK’s frontline health workers has been a key point of tension between the government and medical professionals.

In early April, the government decreed that during the coronavirus outbreak, anyone wanting to export PPE outside the EU, EFTA and certain other territories, would temporarily need a PPE licence to do so.

Included in the update here is a step-by-step guide to applying for a licence from the Department of Health and Social Care website.

It also lists the customs procedure codes that must not be used for PPE consignments.


Tension and delays

For many weeks, healthcare worker unions and hospitals have been warning of a lack of PPE equipment available in the UK.

The export bans imposed by different countries have been blamed for holding up supply of PPE to the UK.

  • In March, the UK government said it hadn’t joined the EU’s PPE procurement schemes because "we are no longer members” of the bloc before later on saying it had missed deadlines due to a “mix-up” in communications, according to the BBC.
  • Also in March, the EU imposed temporary restrictions on exports of PPE to third countries, though there is a mutual exemption between the EU and EFTA countries.
  • On 1 April, import duty was suspended on PPE and chemicals for test kit manufacture being brought into the UK.
  • But it was only on 11 April that the government published its PPE national plan, soon followed by the highly-publicised delay of a flight-load of PPE supply coming from Turkey.
  • The FT reported that the UK’s “just in case, just in time” arrangements with international suppliers were invalidated by export bans imposed by overseas governments. Mark Roscrow, director of NHS Wales’ shared services procurement, told MPs pre-existing contracts for emergency deliveries of PPE were “not worth the paper they were written on.”