• Covid-19 placing significant pressure on supply chain network
  • Trusts keeping roll cages beyond 48 hours adds to the strain, procurement body warns
  • Using roll cages for laundry risks cross-contamination
  • Orders for some personal protective equipment and hand sanitiser restricted

Trust staff must stop using delivery cages to move laundry “immediately,” as it puts strain on delivery operations and risks cross-contamination, a national procurement body has warned.

NHS Supply Chain, which procures common consumables and medical devices for providers, told HSJ trusts had more than 2,800 of its roll cages — nearly 8 per cent of the total — at the end of last week.

Director of supply chain Chris Holmes and director of customer engagement Stephen Foulser told customers: “The high volume of orders we are currently receiving is placing operational pressures on our service capability, around the availability and utilisation of our roll cages.

“Rather than all cages being taken to wards and emptied for our retrieval within 48 hours, large numbers are being held in hospital stores. These need to be released urgently.

“Our cages continue to be utilised by trust employees or contractors for movement of used bed linen. The cages are then collected by laundry operators to end up in their network from which it is difficult to retrieve them.

“Given the heightened risk of cross contamination from covid-19 this practice needs to cease immediately.”

NHS Supply Chain roll cage figures for the network for week ending 13 March:

Cages delivered: 35,674

Cages back: 32,838

Cages retained or migrated to laundry network: 2,836 (7.95 per cent)

An NHS Supply Chain spokeswoman told HSJ: “Prompt returns of cages are essential to our operation and trusts should ensure none are used to store contingency supplies or laundry and that all cages are returned as soon as they are emptied.

“We are asking customers to please conduct regular sweeps of their sites to get cages back to the delivery points for collection and advise customer services of any awaiting collection.”

NHSSC and the Department of Health and Social Care are currently limiting orders for several lines of personal protective equipment and hand sanitiser to “maintain continuity of supply.” Some product lines, such as certain polymer aprons, are currently unavailable for order due to supply issues in China — the original epicentre of the covid-19 outbreak.

NHSSC and the DHSC began distributing masks from national stockpiles last week, noting trusts may receive different products than normal and that the masks would require fit-testing.

Some NHS procurement leaders have shared concerns with HSJ over the number of masks and hand sanitiser products being delivered to individual trusts. A national planning letter released Tuesday said enough PPE stocks were available nationally, but noted some trusts had reported distribution issues.