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Medicines and medical goods that are in short supply will be “fast-tracked” to the UK through a new international transport system operated by Swiss logistics company Kuehne+Nagel International.

DHSC’s International Express Freight Service will help transport medicines “within days” when there is an urgent need or a supplier’s own logistical arrangements are disrupted.

The move will help make sure patients can continue to access the treatments they need, support supply chain issues in the UK and “mitigate potential shortages” of medical goods, DHSC has said.

It comes as the NHS has had to deal with multiple supply chain issues in recent months because of disrupted trade lines and increased global demand for raw materials.

HSJ reported last month that trusts face ‘inevitable’ price rises on goods bought through NHS Supply Chain due to ongoing disruption to global trade. Suppliers using the new transport system will be responsible for payment of carriage and any additional services they agree to use.

It remains to be seen whether these costs will add to the potential price rises or if suppliers will absorb them.

The handover ‘catastrophe’

More trusts are reporting ambulance handovers which lasted more than an hour amid warnings of “catastrophic” risks to patient safety due to the delays.

Data leaked to HSJ suggests around 28,900 ambulance handovers lasted longer than an hour in October – four times higher than what was recorded in the same month last year.

October’s ambulance handover delays were also significantly higher than the number recorded in January this year – the height of the covid pandemic.

It comes amid record levels of pressure at A&Es in recent months, and ambulance services across the country declaring black alerts due to unprecedented demands.

Last week West Midlands Ambulance service was warning it was causing “catastrophic” levels of harm to patients due to handover delays.

NHS England has written to trusts and integrated care systems demanding immediate action to stop ambulance handover delays.