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Ensuring the smooth flow of essential deliveries to patients

4th September 2020

Gary Milne, Head of Warehouse, Distribution and Supply Chain, outlines how his team at Healthcare at Home has stepped up to the challenges of the Covid-19 crisis.

Our warehouse, distribution and delivery team works from 13 distribution centres across the UK and Northern Ireland, making 4,500 medication deliveries per day to a patient group of around 200,000.

We are responsible for distributing life enhancing medications for conditions such as cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and many more, and in April 2020 we started compounding our own patient-specific cancer treatments.

That’s a complex and demanding solution to deliver in ‘normal’ times and with the arrival of Covid-19 we needed to ensure our contingency plans and our supply chain resilience were robust, to continue to service all our patients on-time and in full.

Reacting to the potential initial impact

When we saw that the Coronavirus was flaring up in countries including China and mainland Europe, we immediately put together a proactive team to look at the trends in the wider world and how Covid-19 might impact the UK and the European population and our patient cohort. We looked at the possible impacts of potential disruption in locations where our distribution centres are based, as well as any issues related to our supply of medications to patients in Europe, working with our suppliers and delivery providers to ensure we had contingency plans in place.

We also started work on understanding the direct impact on our patients of any potential problems related to medication deliveries in the UK, for example mapping how often people needed to receive medication and how time sensitive those deliveries were. Thanks to our early planning we were able to ensure an uninterrupted supply of medication across the country, despite the many challenges that we are all now familiar with.

Developing resiliency plans

We used the UK government’s modelling along with our own internal experts to analyse and judge how we would react to spikes in patient illness and our anticipated team absence, whilst developing additional distribution resource and local contingency plans that we could deploy on the ground at a moment’s notice, for example if our distribution centre facilities needed to be closed down for quarantine.

We worked with resource planning specialists Fast Lean Smart to prioritise our scheduled deliveries and develop contingency plans for delivering to areas with different levels of service due to variable lockdowns. We also secured additional capacity to ensure we could flex our delivery driver workforce and warehousing teams along with training our internal cross-team volunteers to maintain a consistent service for patients, should the extra capacity be required.

To support our delivery drivers and patients we critically reviewed our doorstep procedures to ensure that we were socially distancing with proactive hygiene routines, ensuring medication was able to be delivered timely and accurately. In turn we developed a system for minimum contact to protect both our vulnerable patients and our drivers. From the very early stages of Covid-19 impacting we also ensured that all of our drivers and all other employees had all the PPE they needed.

Moving forwards

Our delivery drivers now have staged slots to arrive at our warehouses at different times to collect supplies and reduce any social interaction. We are working on any extra procedures we may need to put in place if there is a second spike in infections this winter.

We believe we are in the best position possible to move forwards and to meet any future challenges, whatever the winter may bring.

All the teams have done an amazing job in supporting the business and I am immensely proud of what we have achieved.

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