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  • NHS Supply Chain: Supporting the NHS frontline in providing safe and high quality patient care

    Tracey Cammish


    Tracey Cammish, Patient safety, Clinical Intelligence and Partnership Lead, explains why patient safety is central to everything NHS Supply Chain does, and why clinical and end-user experience is so important.


    NHS Supply Chain's vision and purpose is to support and enable the NHS to save lives and improve health. We are part of the NHS family and so share the mission of safer, better patient care every day. This means many things in the context of the supplies the NHS needs to provide care.

    It means understanding how the NHS delivers care for its patients. Understanding how doctors, nurses, midwives, allied health professionals (AHPs), in essence, all staff in the hospitals, in the wider community and on the ambulances access and use the products that they need every minute, every hour, every day to do the job that they do in supporting the care delivery of  the patients they serve – be those bandages to bone joints, CT scanners to cutlery, examination couches to examinations gloves, office supplies to oropharyngeal airways, the variation in supplies needed to enable care delivery is diverse.   

    Clinical and end-user experience

    Within NHS Supply Chain we gain this understanding in several ways; however, one of the most effective is to use the experience of those who have been there, seen it and done it. Our team at NHS Supply Chain includes registered nurses (general and mental health), midwives and health visitors from a wide range of clinical specialities. They are there to provide insight and advice on what the potential needs of those at the frontline are and could be, and to share their experience so that what we supply meets patient and end-user need. We have nurses embedded alongside our customer relationship management teams, working directly with local NHS procurement teams, and clinicians working at director-level in NHS Supply Chain to ensure that the strategic decisions we make as a business consider the needs of end users. In fact, the interim chair of our board – Heather Tierney Moore – was a nurse who rose through the ranks to become chief executive of an NHS trust.

    The product sourcing, procurement and supply processes prioritise product safety, quality and assurance, and use clinical and end-user input into designing product essential specifications. This ensures the products we procure are safe, of high quality and meet the needs of patients and end users across the system. Moving forward, NHS Supply Chain will be looking to increase its engagement with expert clinicians and end users as part of our Expert Reference Group process, which will help ensure user perspectives are embedded into specification development.

    Essential specifications strengthen product quality assurance and inform product procurement and development. This holistic due diligence approach sets out the parameters of product requirements and use, which is informed by the people that use the product and the people that are impacted by the product. Essential Specifications achieve this by drilling down into not just the key areas, such as the required regulatory and technical components of a product, but, in addition, seeks to really understand and build in the vital human factor elements of product usability, impact and outcome, as well as product sustainability to support the wider NHS sustainability objectives. 

    Human factors and usability

    It’s people that steer us. The people who are treated in hospitals, in the community and at home. The doctors, nurses, AHPs, midwives, administrators and support staff who work unremittingly to deliver care every day. Our team here at NHS Supply Chain work tirelessly to support the frontline. Our focus on people includes ensuring that we build in human factors and usability requirements into our product procurement design and catalogue. Working with clinicians to understand their needs of the products we procure on behalf of the NHS is a step towards trying to reduce the burden on them. 

    Supporting innovation

    Bringing innovation to the NHS is critical in improving patient outcomes, meeting the needs of our customers and creating financial benefits, along with improving sustainability to meet Net Zero targets.

    NHS Supply Chain works with partners, such as NHS England and Improvement (NHSEI), NHS AAC (Accelerated Access Collaborative), the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and the Academic Health Science Network (AHSN), to support the introduction of new technology and innovation into the NHS that provides demonstrable benefits for our patients and users.

    NHS Supply Chain is the last step in bringing innovative products to market via a legal compliant route and ensuring they are readily available for the whole NHS. We focus on a standardised and recognised approach to assessing and adopting innovation to ensure:

    • A clear procurement route for innovation.
    • Confidence that all products offer quality and value.
    •  Identifying Value Based Procurement opportunities for pathway savings and improved patient outcomes.
    • Filtering products that have the same function and outputs as currently available.

    In April 2021, the NHSE MedTech Funding Mandate (MTFM) policy was launched to support adoption of MedTech and diagnostic technologies across almost 200 healthcare services. This fulfilled a commitment in the NHS Long Term Plan to support commissioners and healthcare providers to bring life-changing innovations to patients quicker with NHS Supply Chain as the preferred supply route.

    When product risks and issues arise, we are swift to respond and work with partners at a national level to ensure the impact on patient care continuity is minimised. We are becoming better at this all the time and, in fact, many frontline clinicians and, in most cases, no patients are ever aware that an issue has arisen.

    We want data and people to be at the heart of everything we do. NHS Supply Chain is guided by data and insight-driven, both in the way we operate and how we work with our partners. This focus drives continuous improvement and helps us add value to the NHS and its fundamental reason for being.

    This is our clinical and patient focus at NHS Supply Chain. To find out more, go and read our clinical Quality, Safety and Assurance Offer

    Tracey Cammish

    About the Author

    I have worked in the NHS for over 30 years and have been a registered nurse for 27 of those years. My healthcare experience is extremely diverse; however, my passion and motivation in every role that I have had is about adding value and making a positive difference. I have lived and breathed the NHS, I understand and appreciate the complexities, challenges and the constant change that occurs within in it. What gets me up every day is knowing that what I am doing contributes to making a positive difference and, fundamentally, being part of a system that is enabling the highest quality safest healthcare provision for patients.

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