Healthcare is devolved in the UK, but contingency planning covers all 4 nations of the UK as well as the Crown Dependencies. Yesterday, the Department of Health & Social Care (DHSC) wrote to medical suppliers. The letter is here.
Re-routing away from the short straits
A large percentage of medical supplies come from the EU or have a supply touchpoint at the short straits (between Calais/Dunkirk/Coquelles and Dover/Folkestone). The DHSC letter asserts the first priority of any contingency should be to maintain replenishment rates at necessary levels by securing capacity to reroute freight away from the short straits potential disruption points. Companies are encouraged to review their own logistics arrangements and consider making plans for avoiding the short straits as a matter of priority.
In 2019, the Department for Transport (DfT) put in place a 4-year procurement framework for freight capacity for ‘Category 1’ goods , which includes all health supplies. This framework is still in place. DHSC is seeking to secure capacity on the government secured freight capacity (GSFC) to support the health and social care sector. More information will be provided when possible, including updates on the procurement timescales and when companies can expect to be able to register and access the service.
In addition, DHSC has retained its express freight service arrangements with 3 specialist logistics providers to support the urgent movement of medicines and medical products to care providers and patients if other measures experience difficulties. This service will be in place for deployment from 1 Jan 2021 as required.
Buffer stocks where possible
We encourage companies to make stockpiling a key part of contingency plans, and ask industry, where possible, to stockpile to a target level of 6 weeks’ total stock on UK soil. DHSC stands ready to support companies with their plans if required and understands that a flexible approach to preparedness may be required that considers a mixture of stockpiling and rerouting plans as necessary.
Centralised stock build
In the run-up to EU Exit, DHSC, working with NHS Supply Chain, built up a centralised stock build (CSB) of fast-moving medical devices and clinical consumables. Some of this stock remains and accounting for likely demand trends for the time of year, the DHSC plans to build these levels back up to a target level of 6 weeks’ total stock. The devolved nations of the UK may, in addition, choose to build their own stockpiles.
The UK Government also updated its guidance (for 1 Jan 2021) to healthcare providers – here.
And updated its Government contact details for medical supply businesses – here.