COVID-19 magnifies the importance of inventory management in the NHS

Nicola Hall, founder and COO at Ingenica Solutions (@IngenicaS), the leader in delivering IT solutions in the areas of procurement, supply chain, inventory management, and the back-office in the healthcare sector.

Nicola explains how coronavirus has brought the importance of effective healthcare inventory management technology firmly into the spotlight.

The coronavirus pandemic will be a catalyst for change across many areas in public service, particularly in the healthcare sector.  It has raised important questions about what improvements we should be making, and how we can avoid the same devastating level of issues should we experience a pandemic of similar proportions in the future.  

Taking the healthcare sector as an example, innovative technologies will play a vital role in enabling the transformation needed, and whilst some technologies have already been in the sector for some time and have been well implemented by a growing number of NHS trusts, it is now that their real value is being acknowledged.  For instance, the challenges faced in recent months have propelled the importance of effective healthcare inventory management firmly into the spotlight by highlighting the extraordinary gaps in supply chain management which have severely impacted healthcare settings across the UK and beyond.

Lack of effective inventory management systems, or indeed any systems at all means that the NHS has been battling a number of challenges across the supply chain for years.  It is not a new issue, however the issues have been accentuated by the coronavirus outbreak, and highlighted the real importance of effective supply chain processes and procedures to patient and frontline workers’ safety, particularly for those hospitals without systems to help them, and especially for PPE.

Innovate inventory management systems are vital across the NHS, and play a key role in alleviating some of the problems we’ve seen in recent months, for instance by reducing the manpower requirements for managing the extra-ordinary demand levels and automating the replenishment process; by providing visibility of stock.  This type of technology also makes it safer for patients, and allow clinicians to spend more time on the frontline, which has never been more important.  

Indeed there are a number of high profile best practice case studies from NHS trusts who have implemented innovative systems, and have achieved significant success in terms of better procurement and supply chain management; demonstrating that it’s about more than just value for money, it’s about improving patient safety.  It is these examples which we should draw to the forefront because these are benefits that are fully transferable across the NHS for long-term impact, and have been secured as a direct result of the technology.  The technology is available, and has been available for some time it’s a case of fully understanding why it is needed.

The supply chain issues brought about by the pandemic will be the driving force to transform the healthcare supply chain, and recognise the much needed improvements that are critical in order to achieve operational and financial improvement, and importantly, patient safety.  Technology is a powerful weapon in the fight to improve patient safety, and inventory management technology can have a real impact.  Organisations such as Ingenica Solutions are here to continue the strong partnerships we have developed with the public sector, and help a greater number of NHS trusts recognise how the effective use of technology can improve outcomes.
 

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