NHS warehouse coping well despite ‘explosion’ in demand, says director

A warehouse delivering millions of pieces of medical equipment to hospitals across Scotland is “starting to see recovery” after a huge increase in demand.

The NHS National Procurement Centre in Larkhall, South Lanarkshire, delivers tens of thousands of products to more than 700 Scottish hospital locations.

Personal protection equipment (PPE) has become the number one item in the fight against coronavirus.

Director Jim Miller told the PA news agency the centre is “really well prepared” and staff “understand this is the new normal for however long this lasts”.

He said: “We are responsible for the distribution of PPE but way more than that.

“We have about 10,000 different product lines and we deliver almost 150,000 orders a week so there could be literally millions of items a week through to just over 700 hospital locations.

“There’s no denying PPE is at the front of a lot of people’s minds both in terms of what specific PPE is required for what situation and the guidance that’s come out.

“Equally I think everyone recognises there’s been an explosion in demand over the last three or four weeks and that has had some issues in supply very early on.

“Not just in the NHS in Scotland and the UK but of course globally.”

He added: “This time a few months ago we would have been talking about Brexit preparations, potentially a couple of years ago we’d have been talking about severe weather over the winter and how we prepare for that.

“We’ve held up well, we are starting to see recovery in terms of pushing that stock out.”

  • Normally between 50-60 people per shift

  • Now working 24/7 over three shifts

  • Upped number of people on shift to around 80-90 people each shift

  • About 10,000 different product lines

  • Almost 150,000 orders a week

  • Delivered to more than 700 hospital locations

  • Last week alone delivered more than one million items to social care

Mr Miller also said since last Thursday the centre has delivered more than one million items of PPE to the social care sector – a new addition to its service.

Normally around 50-60 people would work over three shifts but this has been upped to around 80-90 with cover 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The staff sort around 10,000 product lines in the centre and deal with almost 150,000 orders a week.

Despite the challenges facing his increased workforce, Mr Miller is “proud” of their efforts, expressing confidence in the processes as they increase the amount being supplied as well as what is ordered in.

Jim Miller
Jim Miller

He said: “I’m incredibly proud of what we have here – it is really that thin line that keeps the front-line NHS open.

“We’ve heard a lot about people who can’t or shouldn’t necessarily have to go to work to stay at home.

“The people we have here, they have to come to their work.”

Mr Miller added: “Supplies being delivered are absolutely crucial. They’re responding magnificently.

“We have really very few people that have to stay at home perhaps because of situations in the household, we’ve maintained real high staff levels.

“And of course we’ve augmented that staff level with additional staff, either agency or support from other partners to make sure that we can keep the supplies going.”