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Health resilience in action

NHS National Services Scotland Logistics (NSS Logistics) is the backbone of national supply chain support to NHSScotland, ensuring the highest level of resilience.

This service includes warehouse operations, supply chain, distribution and fleet management.

Annually, NSS Logistics delivers 47 million domestic and medical product items to hospital wards, departments and community health centres across Scotland. However, during peak winter periods, this volume can increase by 20% per week. This brings additional challenges that require significant planning and collaboration with health boards (HBs). Every year, a joint forum involving all HBs is managed by NSS Logistics to review and test resilience plans – ensuring that optimum services are maintained; for example stock is picked in advance and stored at strategic locations to aid peak demands.

Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell visiting the NHS National Distribution Centre to hear how the central logistics team for the NHS manages the delivery of essential supplies over winter.

To ensure a robust supply of its 10,000 products, NSS Logistics reduces risk through its capacity planning models, utilising technology that maximises storage capacity. In addition, tried and tested approaches to flexibility are implemented through a ‘control tower’ model that interfaces with all health boards. This ensures forward visibility of orders, enabling demand to be aligned by utilising ‘fire breaks’ in operating capacity to deal with any adversity. For example, winter weather impacts are quickly communicated and visible to the NSS Logistics ‘control tower’, which monitors real time information on roads and weather while tracking the NSS Logistics fleet via live satellite. This makes it possible to anticipate and react quickly to the impact of weather on service routes.

In addition to its £150m stock throughput, NSS Logistics manages the 4,000 pallets of pandemic flu stocks in line with direction from the Scottish Government’s Resilience Division. To help with contingency planning, these stocks are stored across two separate locations, with each site holding all flu stock lines, and stocks managed within NSS Logistics’ virtual storage Warehouse Management System. This spreads the risk across the supply chain and enables the issue of flu stocks via the national fleet within four hours of Scottish Government Resilience instruction.

Through supply chain forward planning and investment by both NSS and Scottish Government Resilience Divisions, Scotland is firmly at the forefront as a resilience ready country.