Supporting the government’s response to Covid-19

NHS Supply Chain write for Health Business about how they’ve been working to deliver products to the NHS, particularly PPE, during the Covid-19 pandemic

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak, NHS Supply Chain has been working closely with the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England, NHS Improvement and Public Health England to supply and deliver products into the NHS. It is part of the cross-government approach to managing the pandemic.

The government led response to the Covid-19 pandemic has seen over two billion items of personal protective equipment (PPE) delivered to the frontline, covering acute, community, mental health and ambulance trusts as well as to GPs and social care organisations through the national logistics effort.

This includes: over 337 million Type 11R facemasks; over 24 million FFP3 facemasks; and over 325 million aprons.

Supporting government led initiatives
The urgent demand for PPE at the outbreak of Covid-19 earlier this year was so unprecedented that despite increasing staffing levels and running NHS Supply Chain’s network 24/7, it became clear more capacity was still needed to help ensure that PPE products were delivered to the front line. This led to the Government led initiative to establish the dedicated and totally separate PPE supply channel – set up by NHS England and NHS Improvement, NHS Supply Chain, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and Clipper Logistics who are delivering the service.  

This PPE dedicated supply channel was set up in parallel to the usual NHS Supply Chain service and was designed specifically to receive and distribute PPE to NHS trusts and community health partners such as GPs and social care organisations.

It has enabled the NHS Supply Chain network, to continue to focus on the supply of all their other medical devices and clinical consumable items in high demand at this critical time for the NHS.

NHS Supply Chain has received praise from Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health for their efforts in securing PPE. He said: “NHS Supply Chain have done an amazing job. The team have been working incredibly hard … and I pay tribute to them and I think that they deserve our thanks in getting PPE out to everyone.”

In addition, NHS Supply Chain’s buying teams were seconded into the government’s centrally led PPE procurement cell. This cell’s focus is on securing supplies of PPE, whilst ensuring that specifications match clinical need.

NHS Nightingale hospital supplies
NHS Supply Chain have been working alongside the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England, NHS Improvement, and other organisations to prepare their supply chains for the significant increase in equipment and consumables required to equip the NHS Nightingale hospitals. Ventilators, patient monitors, CT scanners and many other products have been in high demand as part of the operation to build additional capacity for the surge of Covid-19 patients in acute trusts and in the new NHS Nightingale Hospitals.

Working to incredibly tight deadlines, NHS Supply Chain has been instrumental in expanding its operations across the UK to support the set-up of NHS Nightingale Hospitals. In total, seven NHS Nightingale Hospitals have been stood up across the UK, these include NHS Nightingale London, Birmingham, North West (Manchester), Yorkshire and the Humber (Harrogate), Bristol, Exeter and North East (Washington). These hospitals are ready to provide backup for NHS hospitals should it be needed, to either support the response to Covid-19 or other NHS services.

Communications are critical during a pandemic. The customer engagement team quickly organised regular webinars to communicate key developments and service updates for both customers and suppliers. In addition, this enabled customers and suppliers to hear from Lord Paul Deighton, former chief executive of London 2012, appointed to lead the government’s efforts to secure PPE and ensure this gets to where it is needed, as well as representatives from NHS England and NHS Improvement to enhance their understanding of key decisions and updates from the national bodies.

The account management team stepped up their support and provided 24/7 cover to help their customers through this challenging period. This involved switching to video based communications with customers, allowing face to face virtual interaction, and ensuring relationships with our customers continued to develop. By adapting to the customer’s needs and maintaining a collaborative approach, the account management team have built stronger, more agile relationships with customers.

Supporting Covid-19 PPE stock management
Royal Papworth has treated over 200 Covid-19 positive patients, and collaborated with NHS Supply Chain on using the eDC Gold application to manage their PPE stock, track it to their wards and produce accurate reports on stock holding and product usage data. eDC is NHS Supply Chain’s order capture system for 10 per cent of NHS England and NHS Improvement’s consumables spend across 140 acute NHS trusts. eDC Gold is the inventory management module of eDC, managing £50m of trust inventory in 32 acute hospitals, and both applications can be managed using the same handheld device.

The results included: effective inventory control of 500,000 PPE items (continuing post-Covid-19); audit trail of PPE stock movements; reduced need for emergency supplies as all stock was visible at all times; and the ability to build a more accurate usage model based on issued stock.

Chris Goodier, head of Procurement, Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This project will greatly benefit the trust going forward with regards to management of stock during the Covid-19 pandemic. NHS Supply Chain’s eCommerce Deployment Lead, Jason Fendick, has been amazing with the support he has provided to date.”

Howard Blackith, Chief Information Officer at NHS Supply Chain, added: “This collaborative development with Papworth not only actively manages vital PPE inventory inside the trust, simplifying capture of PPE demand, but also has the capability to provide a vital demand signal that can be used centrally in forecasting models, which are so critical at this time of national crisis.”

Support from our suppliers
Throughout recent months NHS Supply Chain has been receiving outstanding offers of support from many different suppliers.  Here are some examples from the suppliers of scrubs and food.

Demand for scrubs has been unprecedented with five years’ worth of product being ordered in the first three months of the pandemic. NHS Supply Chain has been working with 12 different suppliers who have adapted and increased their scrubs production to meet demand.

Some examples include: Alexandra, a uniform manufacturer, increased their supply of scrub sets over the last two months and sourced millions of extra medical supplies for hospitals and care homes; non-medical suppliers such as Dark Blu and Orn International offered invaluable support in terms of product supply and sourcing for scrubs and other medical products to help NHS Supply Chain manage increased demands across the market; Meltemi & Alsico UK, who in a single day were able to despatch 100,000 scrubs to NHS Trusts, GP practices and care home groups across the country from their warehouse in Preston.

Food donations
NHS Supply Chain: Food has been working with some of our framework suppliers to donate food and drink to front-line NHS workers. So far over 346,350 units of food and drink worth £187,000 have been generously donated to 123 NHS Hospitals across England. LR Suntory, Gate Gourmet, Britvic, UpBeat, Coca Cola, Unilever, Hippeas and PROPER have got involved in providing free cold bottled drinks, crisps, snacks, and other treats.

Andy Jones, head of Facilities, Birmingham Women's and Children's NHS Foundation Trust commended the generosity of these donations: “I have seen clinical staff in tears when we deliver the products to the wards, from a biscuit to an Easter egg to drinks, it is great – keep them coming!”

Our support continues during the pandemic
NHS Supply Chain is proud to be supporting the government and national bodies at this unprecedented and challenging time.  It has adapted its operating model in an agile way to play a pivotal role alongside national partners in the government led initiatives to managing the response to Covid-19.

Jim Spittle, Chairman, SCCL Board, said: “The extraordinary efforts by our teams in responding to unprecedented volume demand from the NHS has been a testament to the strength and depth of NHS Supply Chain. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic it has been a privilege to work alongside such professional and dedicated teams that have worked tirelessly to serve the front line of the NHS, it’s been a great effort by all concerned.”

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