The government and eBay announced in April that they were working together, along with the Army, Royal Mail and retail logistics firm Clipper, to develop the portal to help non-acute providers to request PPE from NHS Supply Chain.
The DHSC said that the portal would be rolled out nationally 'over the next couple of weeks', with GP practices and smaller care homes being invited to register. Practices are being added to the system by geographical area, with areas experiencing a high prevalence of COVID-19 being added first.
The portal is not intended to replace practices' existing suppliers, but act as a 'top up system' and help reduce the burden on local resilience forums (LRFs). The DHSC said that practices should continue to order PPE through their usual supply routes in the first instance, and then use the portal if additional supplies were needed instead of contacting their LRF.
Once registered, GP practices will be able to order PPE straight away, up to a specified amount.
GP practices have struggled with access to PPE during the pandemic. A BMA poll in early May found that more than two-thirds of GPs had to rely on PPE that they have bought themselves or had donated.
Around one in six GPs (16%) said that they 'rarely' or 'never' had sufficient PPE for safe contact with patients - and only 31% said that they always had the right equipment available.
Earlier this month, NHS England confirmed that GP practices will be reimbursed for any PPE that they have bought, but only for kit that is recommended for use by Public Health England (PHE).
PHE currently recommends the use of gloves, fluid-repellant face masks, aprons and eye protection for staff working in primary care. However many practices have provided staff with additional equipment such as face shields and scrubs, particularly for those working in so-called 'hot sites'.
On Tuesday the government announced that it had signed deals with more than 100 new suppliers around the world, along with ramping up domestic production, to improve supplies of PPE.