Nurse wears PPE during a pandemic

Delivering PPE during a pandemic

There was not a national health service that was unaffected by the sudden and jarring shortage of PPE at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The wild west market conditions were global, and even with powerful infrastructures, big budgets and expensive systems, government procurement teams across the globe fell woefully short. A little further down the food chain, the situation was no less stark.

Without the parliamentary heft or gravitas, those operating in the care sector were forced to feed off the crumbs left by their respective governments. And while nobody doubts that hospitals treating critically sick patients should have been given priority for PPE, it didn’t make the scenario any less grave for those working in care homes.

“We have a number of clients in the care sector,” explains I-Tel’s Melvin Gauci. “With even the UK Government unable to secure requisite equipment, care home supply chains were under significant strain. Prices for key items had soared by almost 1000%, while fraudulent, uncertified and illegal products were flooding the market, exacerbating the problem. It left a number of our clients at risk of not being able to deliver vital care.”

Finding a fix

The biggest challenging facing the care sector was establishing bona fide and reliable supply chains. Doing so would guarantee a steady supply of PPE that would allow I-Tel’s care sector clients to continue to provide care and to prevent further disruptions.

“Early decisive action was taken, and it was clear that a consortium style approach would yield the best results,” says Melvin. “By forecasting and consolidating the requirements of all our healthcare clients we could leverage economies of scale for volume order price marks and supply a standardised product that had undergone the necessary legal checks and certification authenticity.

“Our team liaised with all our care sector clients to establish a stock forecast for the coming months.  Once the volumes were identified our procurement team engaged with our fully vetted supply chain to negotiate pricing and delivery.”

At the time, sourcing nitrile gloves was a major issue for the care sector. But with some creative thinking, I-Tel found a solution. Through its contacts in the automotive industry, I-Tel was able to source large volumes of medical grade nitrile gloves from Renault. The car maker had a vast surplus because it wasn’t open or operational. All their available stock from around the UK was secured and diverted to the care sector.

Preparing for the future

It was widely known that the care sector had suffered significant shortages in securing PPE and other vital equipment required to do their job. Through I-Tel’s service that risk was not only mitigated but significantly reduced in the medium to long term. The company’s creative thinking, access to wider markets and agility secured much needed PPE equipment that allowed its care sector clients to continue their core activities and benefit from substantial cost savings.

“Moving forward, we’ve taken significant steps to mitigate risk in the future,” Melvin adds. “We’ve set up an MHRA certified and accredited supply chain for our care sector clients that provides consistency in brand, price and quality across the organisation.

“Moreover, through our stock forecasting and monitoring function, our clients are able to keep a close watch on stock levels and predict future use and requirements. This ability cross references with the global marketplace allows them to buy their required goods ahead of time and prevent shortages.”

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