• Call centre established by DHSC and will operate 24/7
  • Suppliers told to contact centre if supply issues emerge following a no-deal Brexit
  • Facility is part of Brexit response team which will “troubleshoot” logistics issues

NHS suppliers have been told to contact a new 24/7 call centre run by the Department of Health and Social Care if they experience disruption to their deliveries following a no-deal Brexit.

The call centre will “record supplies disruption concerns” from companies and “route them correctly”, according to a letter from DHSC’s chief commercial officer Steve Oldfield to suppliers on 26 March – seen by HSJ.

The facility is part of the DHSC’s national supply disruption response, which will offer “logistics troubleshooting” to suppliers whose consignments are “stuck in border disruption”.

This will include directing suppliers to the special shipping route operated by DHL on behalf of DHSC, following the establishment of a no-deal Brexit logistics hub in Belgium.

In his letter (see below), Mr Oldfield wrote: “I recognise some of the difficulties in identifying when issues in the supply chain will result in disruption to the continuity of supply.

“However, I would urge all suppliers/sponsors to report emerging supply issues at the earliest opportunity to the NSDR so that we maximise the time available to identify solutions with you.”

When reporting supply disruption issues to the response team, suppliers will be asked for detailed information, such as:

  • The cause of the disruption and anticipated duration;
  • Descriptions, names and codes of products affected and their storage conditions and shelf life;
  • The likely impact of the disruption; and
  • The number of healthcare providers and/or patients that could be affected.

Mr Oldfield said the response team will “respect the commercial sensitivity of any information reported”.

The response team should also be told of risks even if they are not related to Brexit, and instead are caused by things like “materials shortages, manufacturing outages, quality issues or regulatory challenges etc”.

Suppliers are also asked to notify the response team of any “direct communication to care providers or patients” in relation to emerging supply disruption issues.

“Where possible, the NSDR teams will look to work with you to coordinate communications to ensure clear, consistent and timely messaging,” Mr Oldfield said.

Additionally, the DHSC has asked suppliers to have in place “effective procedures for monitoring and managing demand to detect and challenge excessive ordering, and control stock despatches,” Mr Oldfield’s letter stated.

In a separate letter (see below) sent to NHS trusts this week, Keith Willett, the NHS’ Brexit strategic commander, told trusts to report supply issues to their “supplies department”, which could then escalate the issues to the NSDR team if necessary. 

The UK is scheduled to leave the EU on 12 April or 22 May, depending on whether the prime minister’s withdrawal agreement passes through Parliament.