PPE factory to close after NHS orders dry up

time:2023-06-09 05:57:59source:NBC News author:Press center2

A factory in southern Scotland built to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) during the Covid pandemic is to be closed with the loss of 65 jobs.

Alpha Solway said it was consolidating its Scottish operations after NHS orders had "dried up".

It will see the closure of one of its two Dumfries factories and machinery transferred to other sites.

Director Steven Binnie said it was a "difficult decision" but one that was needed to tackle "significant losses".

Alpha Solway - which is part of the Globus Group - landed a major contract in 2020 to supply PPE to NHS Scotland.

It announced plans to invest more than £33m in Dumfries and Galloway - creating about 300 jobs - last year.

The move was backed by South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE) with £4.8m in funding support - its biggest grant to date at that time.

However, the company warned last month that it was reviewing staffing levels in light of a drop in NHS demand.

It has now confirmed it will shut one of its Dumfries sites - at Irongray Industrial Estate - which was built "in a matter of weeks" at the start of the Covid pandemic.

It was one of three new facilities developed by Globus which delivered 252 million masks to NHS staff during the pandemic.

Analysis: Giancarlo Rinaldi, BBC news website south of Scotland reporter

This is news which was already feared in Dumfries after Alpha Solway confirmed it was looking at staffing levels last month.

The company was seen as a south of Scotland success story with its expansion plans announced last year set to make it one of the area's biggest employers.

It says that while it anticipated a drop in orders as the pandemic eased, it has been much sharper than expected.

That means that some people who turned to the company for employment when Covid hit are now set to be made redundant.

Alpha Solway said it had learned that "significant stockpiles" of PPE had now been built up which meant it was unlikely to receive any new NHS Scotland orders for the "foreseeable future".

It said that meant it would have to close the Dumfries factory with about 65 workers being made redundant.

Mr Binnie said: "Our response to the Covid-19 pandemic focused on delivering a resilient and reliable supply of PPE for NHS staff.

"Our investment was made on the basis of ongoing orders which would provide long-term resilience of supply in the UK.

"Unfortunately, these orders have stopped in recent months with significant financial impact."

He said they were very grateful for the work done by staff over the past two years but the decision was needed to "stem significant losses".

"As with any business, it is necessary to protect the company and its remaining team against continued deterioration," he added.

He said its second site in the town at Heathhall - which was built with SOSE support - would remain open.

Jane Morrison-Ross, chief executive of the enterprise body, said it was "saddened" by the closure of the Irongray facility.

"SOSE has been involved in extensive discussions with Alpha Solway and the Scottish government since the company announced a review of its operations last month," she said.

"Unfortunately, despite considerable efforts by a number of parties including SOSE, the consultation process has ended without a solution being found."

She said Skills Development Scotland was ready to support any workers affected by the closure.

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