NHS leaders should plan for deliveries from the EU to be longer in the event of a no-deal Brexit, NHS Improvement has warned.
A letter sent by NHS Improvement to NHS chief executives and heads of procurement yesterday said that NHS trusts are still being asked not to stockpile medical devices and clinical consumables (MDCC), as doing so ‘could cause local shortages in the supply chain’.
However, when trusts depend on receiving products directly from the EU on a short lead time basis – between 24 and 72 hours – they should add at least three days to the timeframe, the letter said.
It added: You should review the product levels held locally for critical items (excluding everyday consumables such as rubber gloves or wound dressings) used for unplanned/emergency procedures where you typically rely on next day delivery to top up stock.
‘Trusts should plan for lead times of around three days longer for these products.’
Actions to take
Trusts should review their procedures for products coming through the EU via NHS Supply Chain E-Direct, Blue Diamond, or direct from supplier, the letter said.
Trusts might need to ‘plan elective lists further in advance’, identifying local system partners with whom to share supplies, and even test emergency scenarios in which a particular item is out of stock, to identify alternative items they could use instead, according to the guidance.
Relevant staff should also be made aware of longer lead times.
Next day delivery
For unplanned emergency procedures that might need next day delivery of MDCC, trusts are asked to:
- Identify the products needed for unplanned procedures, ‘typically products used off the shelf which are re-stocked next day’
- From the list of products previously identified, remove ‘standard’ products that would be centrally stocked by NHS Supply Chain, such as rubber gloves, sutures, aprons.
- Among the remaining products, trusts should identify those considered ‘higher-risk’ – specialist products that are low volume but high value, such as loan kits, heart valve transcatheters, and negative pressure wound therapy systems – which trusts receive direct from EU warehouses
- Trusts should then increase the number of higher-risk products held locally for unplanned, emergency work
NHS Improvement said that while the Government continues to work to secure a Brexit deal, ‘some actions need to be taken now to ensure effective contingency arrangements can be in place ahead of 29 March 2019 that ensure you can continue to access the products you need to deliver safe, effective patient care in any scenario’.
NHS Improvement’s guidance comes a few weeks after health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said that medicines will be prioritised over food in the case of a no-deal scenario.
NHS were previously been told not to stockpile MDCC, while suppliers were asked to increase their stocks levels by six-weeks’ worth.