Blog: We are committed to strengthening resilience through connected supply chains
Our focus for September is #SupplyChainMatters. To introduce this topic, Jonathan Kaye, Associate Director of Procurement for NHS Supply Chain: Facilities and Office Solutions, discusses the importance of the supply chain across the NHS and how we ensure resilience and stability across our suppliers.
The importance of supply chain management is recognised in annual strategic priorities set out by NHS Supply Chain – these are to ‘Buy smart, supply right and partner expertly.’
Within the focus of ensuring we ‘Supply Right’, we are committed to strengthening resilience through connected supply chains and building the future by structuring our frameworks in a way that allows them flexibility to evolve, whilst maintaining strict standards and ensuring our customers have a safe and compliant route to the goods they need. We recognise the criticality of resilient supply chains for our customers and the importance these play in enabling patient care and affecting patient outcomes. The importance of ensuring continuity and resilience in these supply chains was no more evident than when these were pushed beyond their limits during our pandemic response. Our sourcing strategies, manufacturing capacities, lead times and stock holding throughout the supply chain – for both raw materials and finished goods – were challenged. We had enjoyed many years of stability that allowed us to develop lean supply chains driven by the desire to provide the NHS with the best value for money. Learning from this shared experience, we have brought in changes to our sourcing strategy approach, which puts a stronger emphasis on ensuring resilience, and it is now a key priority as we work tirelessly to make sure that the suppliers on our frameworks reflect the guiding principles that we work by.
Over the last two years we have improved the way we map our supply chains. Most recently, we conducted this exercise with the suppliers on the NHS National Healthcare Uniform project. We recognised the important of this from both a resilience perspective but also a sustainability and ethical perspective.
Through this procurement exercise, we have specified the use of 100% recycled polyester, and our suppliers are members of the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI). When sourcing textiles we have a duty to ensure this is done ethically, and we and the suppliers on this framework have joined the Supplier Ethical Data Exchange (Sedex). Sedex is an online system that allows suppliers to maintain data on ethical and responsible practices and allows them to share this information with their customers. This provides a greater level of transparency around our suppliers, supply chains and the risks associated with them.
This procurement exercise has resulted in a fantastic, innovative garment, with a great design that is sourced sustainably and ethically, where we are managing the risks across the supply chain much more effectively than we have done in previous contracts. Through our team’s great procurement strategy, we have also been able to do this at around two thirds of the cost that an NHS Trust would pay for a healthcare uniform today; so, this really does tick all the boxes.
We are a few months into the NHS Supply Chain: Facilities and Office Solutions contract, and I am incredibly proud of the work of my team. The last 18 months have been a challenge and we have been managing cost pressures across all our categories. Sterling has been weak against the dollar, the cost of energy, freight and commodities has been off the charts, and we are experiencing inflation that we haven’t seen for decades, but our team are playing their part and working with suppliers to mitigate and reduce this inflation wherever possible. We are already starting to see these stabilise, and in many cases, recover back to previous levels. And as we look to the future, we have plans to continue to drive discussions and strategies to bring these costs down further, and supporting trusts to achieve savings, but this will never be at the expense of resilient supply chains.