Christopher Nieper, Managing Director of David Nieper Ltd writes an open letter to Lord Deighton about securing quality and sustainable supply of PPE through British manufacturing…
House of Lords
Dear Lord Deighton,
As a manufacturing company, working on the front line to supply the NHS, I’m writing to support your efforts in the monumental task of unblocking the nation’s PPE and urge a radical rethink to ensure this doesn’t happen again.
Following weeks of frustration and delay, I believe we must create a new category for all strategic supplies to the NHS as being of vital national importance. In doing so we prioritize short, sustainable supply lines and create closer co-operation between hospitals and local suppliers.
I read with disappointment, that rather than dismantle the central procurement bureaucracy which has caused delays, local hospital trusts have now been discouraged to work with local suppliers or to quote the press ‘banned’ from using local suppliers, therefore dampening the spirit that has proved valuable in recent weeks.
Our family business, based in Derbyshire has designed and manufactured high-end women’s fashion for sixty years. We’re one of very few in British textiles to have remained loyal to British skills and never go offshore. We employ 300+ staff in our 5 factories in the town of Alfreton.
Allowing British textiles to become all but extinct has left us dangerously exposed to overseas supply and put our country at the mercy of others. We wait while RAF planes sit on a runway in Turkey; we hear of 7-mile freight queues in China and of the transport cost to the UK rocketing from $3/kg to $22/kg.
Our company was one of the first to turn our production over to supporting the NHS, first contacting the government on 16thMarch and I’m delighted to say that within a fortnight we’d cut patterns, bought fabric and were underway making PPE for frontline doctors and nurses. As I write we’re supplying over 20 hospitals with scrubs, clinical hoods and reusable surgical gowns.
Our staff are proud to have put themselves forward to work during the lockdown and hundreds of thousands of our own fashion brand customers have waited patiently in recent weeks. It’s our contribution to the national effort.
However, reaching this position has been far from straightforward. Indeed, we have had to bypass central procurements systems entirely and work directly with our local hospital trusts to get vital PPE to the frontline.
From our experience going local has always been highly effective. In this case we used a local fabric supplier, we worked with the local hospital to design our reusable parachute gown, we produced locally and now supply top quality garments to our local doctors and nurses.
I have kept a dossier of events regarding our journey to supplying the NHS – including my first conversation in March and subsequent correspondence with NHS Supply Chain, Deloittes, Crowne Commercial and the Government – frustratingly none of whom have delivered for us.
Our government has a duty to protect our national health service and whilewe’re at it, why not use the opportunity to kick start British textiles for the rest of our economy to create jobs and wealth across Britain with value adding British manufacturing.
I’d be happy to support you in establishing secure British supply lines and Boris Johnson’s ambition to level up opportunity across our country.
Christopher Nieper, OBE
Chief Executive, David Nieper Ltd.