Covid-19 highlights value of NHS SBS Integrated Procurement Service
NHS SBS helps ensure local healthcare services remain open during Covid-19 pandemic
Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust (CCS) provides health and care services from more than 120 locations across the East of England. With NHS Shared Business Services (NHS SBS) embedded within the organisation to deliver an on-site specialist procurement service, the Trust was able to respond to Covid-19 quickly by introducing new systems and processes to keep essential services running for local people.
As a community NHS trust, CCS delivers a wide range of services - including school age immunisation, children's services, dental, neuropsychological rehabilitation and sexual health - across a vast area covering hundreds of square miles.
A champion of the importance of high-quality, community-based health services, which give people more choice and control, the Trust needed to ensure its employees and patients were kept safe whilst critical services continued during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Key to this was the ready availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) - a huge logistical challenge for an organisation not used to needing large scale provisions.
The integrated NHS SBS procurement team, which provides a full end-to-end managed service on behalf of the Trust, set about establishing new ways of working to respond to the need to order a huge increase in PPE via a new national portal.
The team also needed to put measures in place to distribute supplies to multiple locations across the organisation - despite not having a warehouse or suitable storage facilities to take delivery of large orders.
Louise Palmer, former Head of Clinical Quality at CCS, said:
"We needed to navigate a new process overnight. The first delivery was to our headquarters, which is a traditional office building. So colleagues were taking boxes of PPE into our meeting rooms.
"The considerations for us were: How could we develop a system quickly? How could we keep track of stock levels? How would we ensure all of our colleagues had access to PPE to keep them safe, including those working out in local communities who hadn't historically needed it?"
Within a matter of days, the expert NHS SBS procurement team had created new processes that were successfully rolled out across the Trust.
A stock inventory was set up, along with daily and weekly virtual stock takes. The team also helped colleagues to understand how different sites could manage large deliveries, whilst mobilising a support team to work remotely across the organisation.
"We really valued NHS SBS's responsiveness. No question or problem was too small. They reassured the wider team and gave us confidence in taking on completely new and unfamiliar roles during a highly stressful time.
"I suddenly went from being a nurse overseeing quality assurance, to a PPE logistics team lead. NHS SBS colleagues took the time to support me in understanding the challenges and new concepts like 'burn rate', which is how quickly the organisation goes through certain products. This in turn meant we were well-positioned to support other colleagues through the challenges too."
The NHS SBS team developed and implemented the new model in just ten working days, ensuring that CCS was able to respond effectively to another surge in demand during the second Covid-19 spike.
The responsiveness of the NHS SBS service in an emergency situation, combined with the team's specialist commercial expertise, ensured that the Trust did not drop below minimum stock levels for any PPE product line across all 120 locations.
Through initiatives like internal Q&A sessions, CCS employees reported that they felt well informed and supported during the changes. In addition, NHS SBS was able to provide advice and guidance on a 'Mutual Aid' initiative, which was established alongside other NHS partners in the region to keep even more people safe.
"We put our trust in NHS SBS and it massively paid off. We were impressed by their professionalism and support throughout and were reassured that we could effectively manage PPE levels however long the challenge continued."