Spilling the Tea on NHS Logistics

Demand for Personal Protective Equipment skyrocketed as the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

Our #HealthHeroes are doing an absolutely fantastic job, don’t get me wrong. I have been absolutely humbled and so proud of our medical community for coming together at this time and sacrificing their own health to save British lives. I think many can agree it has been so noble and brave.

However, some things within the NHS just don’t seem to be lining up. With our health care professionals working this hard and placing their own lives on the line; and with £14bn being pledged towards public services by the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, surely, we should be performing a little better with regards to this pandemic?

This might just explain why: in April, the NHS handling off personal protective equipment (PPE) was claimed to be ‘appalling’ and our NHS logistics’ ‘knackered’ compared to military logistical planning by a source talking to The Times.

This source in question was referring to thousands of supplies such as masks, aprons, and gloves being assigned to hospitals with no regard for local supply needs. This being the primary cause of PPE shortages in some areas and oversupply issues, such as potential wastage in others.

Reasons for this ‘knackered’ logistical planning may be because of the disconnect between national and local procurement efforts, leading to the wrong products and quantities of products being procured for communities in question.

For example, amidst this pandemic, Dr. Claire Steves from King’s College London said that ‘areas with higher rates of poverty will need a greater supply of PPE and more hospital capacity’. Further still that this is driven by the close link of deprivation ‘with increased health issues and disease burden’ claims Dr. Christina Menni, also from King’s College – which makes these communities more vulnerable. We have yet to see whether this has been followed up by the NHS and the government to match similar healthcare communities with the PPE they require.

More transparency is definitely needed on the allocation and distribution of supplies by the government and the responsible NHS bodies to increase the accountability of these organisations when things go wrong. Otherwise, the only one who pays for PPE shortages and restocks will be us…the unknowing, ‘do-gooding’ taxpayers!

With our healthcare professionals working this hard and putting their lives on the line, surely, we should be performing better in regards to this pandemic.

When healthcare professionals are in dire need of PPE, you have to ask if it’s really the answer to throw more and more money at the issue, always reiterating that same washed-out headline: that all of the NHS’s problems are due to being underfunded.

Perhaps what is really needed, is a detailed analysis of the breakdowns within the NHS procurement pathways and the overinflated prices that suppliers still offer the NHS, because well, it’s the NHS (disgusting I know).

Ideally, then we could direct experts in planning, fraud, and communications issues to untie the gigantic Gordian knot currently embedded into the NHS so that it can actually run smoothly.

However, coming back to the present, the truth is that many trusts are still experiencing serious shortages of PPE gowns. With the launch of the PPE-Only Supply chain, hopefully, these current issues can be solved and the demand for such equipment met throughout the UK, in all areas of need.

This problem is gargantuan, and it is likely that there is no quick-fix solution to the many qualms that exist in NHS procurement. Yet, here’s to hoping that slowly and steadily, when the clouds of this pandemic clear, our society can use all of the lessons learned to become more equitable and efficient for all.

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