P4H, the leading NHS procurement and supply chain event, was back live last month. During the day-long event, procurement, inventory management and logistics experts discussed what the next 12 months might look like for the healthcare supply chain. Our own expert, James Minards, was at the event speaking to NHS professionals and identified three key takeaways.
With COP26 just around the corner, sustainability is the word on everyone’s lips. From a procurement point of view, sustainability could be improved by implementing a few simple measures. For example, ensuring organisations further up the supply chain have robust recycling processes in place, or that procurement strategies focus on moving away from single use plastics and towards reusable PPE.
Whilst sustainability is an area where the supply chain can certainly support improvement for healthcare providers, it doesn’t come without its challenges. At the moment, more sustainable procurement options are often slightly more expensive. At a time when organisations are tightening their belts post pandemic, many would struggle to move to a more sustainable procurement strategy if there were cheaper options available.
But here’s where digitalisation of supply chain management can support the move toward sustainability. By streamlining processes and improving procurement, logistics and inventory management efficiency, healthcare providers will be able to free-up unnecessary costs within the supply chain in order to pursue a more sustainable agenda. Improved financial efficiency within supply chain operations doesn’t just help the bottom line, it can actively empower healthcare Trusts to become more sustainable organisations.
Scan4Safety is picking up momentum again after a period on the backburner during the COVID-19 pandemic. With support from the Department for Health and Social Care, Trusts are driving forward with implementing the scheme which provides greater efficiency in healthcare supply chain operations, as well as much greater traceability of medical products to protect patients.
GHX has experience in this particular area, having worked with the Scottish NHS to implement GS1-capable inventory management systems to help emulate England and Wales’ Scan4Safety initiative. NHS Scotland’s new e-Procurement system allows for stock to be automatically reordered when levels drop below a certain threshold, as well as introducing enhanced data capture attributes such as serial numbers, expiry dates and batch information. This improved data capture capability in particular has brought huge benefits for patient safety, enabling items to be tracked even if they had already been used on a patient to allow for easier recall of items.
Perhaps the biggest single topic of conversation at P4H this year was how Trusts and hospitals are adapting to the implementation of Integrated Care Systems. Put simply, these are new partnerships between the organisations that meet health and care needs across an area, to help streamline procurement and logistics processes.
Issues arising included warehousing for the new system in order to efficiently store and distribute an individual area’s own stock, mitigating the chances of shortages, and the importance of robust, data-enabled systems to coordinate inventory management of these centralised stores.
It can’t be stressed enough how crucial good digital systems will be in properly implementing the Integrated Care Systems, so that they deliver on their promise of streamlining procurement and logistics. Whilst regional warehouses are a step in the right direction toward a more efficient supply chain, good data analytics and digitally enhanced purchasing systems will be crucial to realising a truly streamlined operation.