• Details of NHS trusts’ self-assessments of no-deal Brexit impact on non-clinical goods and services revealed
  • Trust plans include increasing frozen food stock and giving patients cold meals
  • Self-assessments indicate little or no risk to major supplies or services overall
  • Catering, pathology, and spare parts for equipment most commonly identified risk areas

A mental health trust has said it can “operate for four days” by increasing its stock of frozen food and replacing hot meals for patients with cold meals, in the event of food shortages caused by a no-deal Brexit.

The plans, by Tees, Esk and Wear FT, are included in NHS trusts’ self-assessments of the impact of a no-deal Brexit on their non-clinical goods and services.

Another trust has highlighted the availability of spare parts for repairing medical equipment as a potential concern, while a specialist hospital has seen costs rise as a result of a supplier encouraging stockpiling ahead of Brexit despite this contradicting orders from the government.

HSJ has obtained details from the self-assessments of around 20 trusts thanks to the Freedom of Information Act.

The vast majority of trusts said they could not release their self-assessments due to commercial confidentiality. This followed an instruction from the Department of Health and Social Care not to release any information to HSJ.

But a small number of trusts sent over their entire self-assessments, most of which do not highlight any significant risks to major supplies or services.

Tees, Esk and Wear FT’s contingency plans for a potential food shortage are to “increase the stock of frozen meals to two days” and replace hot meals with cold meals if there is a shortage, which would “allow us to operate for four days”.

The trust said it could increase the limit on its purchasing cards to allow for local sourcing and the plans include moving food between its in-patient sites using its own vehicles.

The trust’s food provider is Tillery Valley Foods, which is owned by global food and facilities management company Sodexo. 

According to the trust’s self-assessment, this means Tillery Valley Foods is well-placed to “mitigate any supply chain issues”.

The self-assessment said laundry services “should be fine” as most products are non-EU based, but warned that its own on-site washing machines are “not high enough temperature for infection control”. The assessment also reported a “very limited supply” of disposable sheets at the 365-bed Roseberry Park Hospital.

Northern Lincolnshire and Goole FT warned one possible impact could be the “availability of spare parts from EU sources for repair of medical equipment”. Another risk lay with the trust’s managed service provider for pathology (Genmed) which may not be able to source products from its suppliers.

In its plans, the trust said the alternative is to “attempt direct supply from manufacturers within a two-week period and manage the suppliers and logistics directly from the pathology department”.

East Lancashire Hospitals Trust, which has also assessed its clinical goods and services supply chains, said the main areas of risks lay within 3 per cent of its suppliers, with whom 14 per cent of all trust spend is concentrated. The affected services are medicines, catering, and medical devices.

East Cheshire Trust reported high risks with three of its 503 suppliers of all goods and services. Two of the suppliers are within pathology, and the third supplier provides dental equipment maintenance.

Further west, Cheshire and Wirral Partnership FT also found risks at just three of its 480 suppliers, which all related to staffing services.

Meanwhile, at South West Yorkshire Partnership FT the highest risk is with its supplier of hot food trollies for catering, according to the trust. Other low risk areas included medical bottle gas cylinders, electrical consumables, and fire alarm systems and support.

North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust said one high risk had been identified with a company providing pacemakers, while both University Hospitals Bristol FT and Northumberland Tyne and Wear FT are braced for changes in prices for goods and services.

But other trusts, including Lancashire Care FT, Oxford Health FT, Sherwood Forest Hospitals FT, Nottinghamshire Healthcare FT and St George’s University Hospitals FT all reported little or no risk to their non-clinical goods and services.

The Department of Health and Social Care has told trusts not to stockpile any goods in the build-up to Brexit, and it is managing contingency plans with the NHS’ main suppliers of medical devices and pharmaceuticals.

However, a board meeting at Birmingham Women’s and Children’s FT was told non-pay cost pressures had emerged due to “suppliers encouraging stockpiling in advance of EU exit”.

This had occurred in “at least one instance”, when stock for pathology services was bought for a sum “less then £10,000” - the trust told HSJ.

A spokesman for the trust said: ”The spend itself happende a few months ago and, when it came to light, allowed the trust to communicate and reffirm a mesage about stockpiling not being necessary ahead of an exit from the EU. 

“The stock itself can be used over time and has not any lasting financial impact.”

Last week, HSJ reported there could be “some volatility” within the hospital catering sector, according to the chair of Hospitals Catering Association. 

The UK is set to leave the EU on 29 March, unless an extension is agreed between the parties.

  • Article updated at 2.28pm on 25 March to include statement from Birmingham Women’s and Children’s FT.

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