'Just in case supply chain management no longer cuts it in hospitals'

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
24 March 2014

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24 March 2014 | Will Green

A “just in case” approach to supply chain management in hospitals “doesn’t cut it anymore”, a conference was told.

Andy Slinn, supply chain and logistics manager at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, said they carried “two to four weeks of critical stock” and the key was efficient deliveries and distribution.

“Just in time replaced just in case, which doesn’t cut it anymore,” he said. “We are all about challenging how we get the product where it needs to be.”

Speaking at the Government Opportunities NHS Procurement Conference in Birmingham, Slinn said the hospital had separate lifts for patients and staff, while they had refined the delivery system to minimise disruption to wards.

“The conflict between staff and patients using lifts is horrendous in all hospitals I have been in,” he said. “Patients have to queue for lifts. In ours they don’t.”

Slinn said they coordinated deliveries to wards. “We have minimised the impact,” he said. “As we take new clean materials in we take out the waste and the dirty linen.”

He said the biggest challenge they faced was “hearts and minds”. “We still have a couple of rogue departments that are reticent to come over to our supply chain approach because they feel their products are too important,” he said. “The reality is we move boxes of stuff and we do it very well.”

Slinn said he wanted to introduce efficiencies such as e-invoicing, though lack of collaboration between trusts stifled innovation.

“There is a lot of competition between trusts,” he said. “Whether it’s legitimate or not it doesn’t matter. It really does exist so sharing is really difficult.”

Finding the right people was also a problem, according to Slinn. “We’re struggling for talent,” he said. “It’s very difficult to bring talent into the NHS. The reality is we have an awful lot of very senior people who have been with the NHS; they are not going to be there. The clock really is ticking. We have recognised this and we are developing a talent bank so we can move people around the region to learn procurement skills to develop the heads of procurement of the future.”

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