Focus on patient safety leads to latex-free physiotherapy products

1 June 2021

NHS trusts can now take advantage of latex-free products for patients undergoing physiotherapy.

The NHS has been migrating to latex-free products wherever possible since 2008 due to potential allergies in both patients and healthcare professionals. Individuals can develop hypersensitivity to the proteins that are present in natural rubber latex. Allergic reactions may develop as a result of this hypersensitivity including hives, a stuffy or running nose, itching and wheezing.

While the initial focus was on the use of latex-free gloves, the quality and quantity of latex-free products available has improved. So, while renewing the tender for its Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy framework, NHS Supply Chain consulted with clinicians and suppliers to remove latex resistance bands from its online catalogue.

Patient uses latex-free resistance band

Suppliers were already selling latex-free varieties so the conversations with suppliers and with clinicians during engagement was to understand any barriers to removing latex from the catalogue. Clinicians were positive about the move and suppliers were happy to accommodate the change as this was in line with national policy and removal of unwarranted variation principles outlined in the Carter report.

Marc Naughton, Clinical Engagement and Implementation Manager from NHS Supply Chain: Rehabilitation, Disabled Services, Women’s Health and Associated Consumables said: “Last year we supplied NHS organisations with more than 625,000 metres of latex resistance bands.

“Last autumn they were removed from the framework in-line with national policy, however, there are a variety of clinically effective ranges providing latex-free alternatives from a number of suppliers.

“By only supplying latex-free resistance bands there will be significant benefits to patients with known allergies but more importantly, unknown allergies to latex, thereby reducing risk of harm to patients.

“These products have been used successfully over a number of years and NHS organisations can be confident that we have a full product range to meet their needs.”

The new framework has eight brands providing latex-free resistance bands (extra light to extra-extra heavy) in a variety of lengths (50m to individual patient loops).

Fay Allen, NHS Supply Chain’s Product Assurance Specialist, added: “This is great news not just for patients but also healthcare professionals because it avoids any potential allergic reactions to latex. Moving to latex-free resistance bands is a positive step towards improving patient safety which is a core part of our approach to supplying clinical products.”


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About NHS Supply Chain’s role in the Covid-19 response

  • The Government has set up new PPE Dedicated Supply Channel which is a parallel supply chain to the normal NHS Supply Chain service. It has been set up by Government to meet the urgent volume requirements for core personal protective equipment (PPE) items, allowing NHS Supply Chain to focus on ensuring the supply of medical devices and clinical consumables to our NHS.
  • The Government has set up a dedicated unit to focus on securing supplies of PPE led by the government’s commercial function. This unit is identifying PPE suppliers from across the globe to meet the increasing demand for a growing list of PPE products.  NHS Supply Chain’s PPE buying teams have been seconded to the unit which is led by the government.
  • NHS Supply Chain has expanded its operations to support the stand up of seven NHS Nightingale Hospitals set up across the UK, including NHS Nightingale London, Birmingham, North West (Manchester), Yorkshire and the Humber (Harrogate), Bristol, North East (Washington) and Exeter. Equipment and consumables supplied include ventilators, patient monitors and CT scanners.

About NHS Supply Chain

NHS Supply Chain manages the sourcing, delivery and supply of healthcare products, services and food for NHS trusts and healthcare organisations across England and Wales.

Managing more than 4.5 million orders per year, across 94,000 order points and 15,000 locations, NHS Supply Chain systems consolidate orders from over 800 suppliers, saving trusts time and money and removing duplication of overlapping contracts. 

Lord Carter’s report into efficiency and productivity in the NHS, published in 2015, identified unwarranted variation in procurement across the NHS, resulting in the need to improve operational efficiencies to transform a fragmented procurement landscape. To undertake this transformation the Department of Health and Social Care established the Procurement Transformation Programme (PTP) to deliver a new NHS Supply Chain.

The new NHS Supply Chain was designed to help the NHS deliver clinically assured, quality products at the best value, through a range of specialist buying functions. Its aim is to leverage the buying power of the NHS to negotiate the best deals from suppliers and deliver savings of £2.4 billion back into NHS frontline services by the end of the financial year 2022/23.

The new model consists of eleven specialist buying functions, known as Category Towers, delivering clinical consumables, capital medical equipment and non-medical products such as food and office solutions. Two enabling services for logistics and supporting technology and transactional services which underpin the model.

Key benefits the NHS Supply Chain will bring NHS trusts and suppliers include:

NHS trusts

  • Savings channelled back to frontline services
  • Releasing more time for core clinical activities
  • Greater NHS clinical involvement in purchasing decision
  • More effective introduction of new products.

Suppliers

  • Lowering sales and marketing costs
  • Single route into the national market
  • A joined-up approach across the NHS
  • Clear route for innovative products.

On 1 April 2018, a new commercially astute management function of the new NHS Supply Chain called Supply Chain Coordination Limited (SCCL) went ‘live’. The management function is responsible in driving strong commercial capability, providing a relentless approach to creating value, gain competitive advantage, become the strategic procurement partner of choice for the NHS, manage the delivery and performance of the Category Tower Service Providers and its enabling logistics and technology services whilst overseeing continuous improvement. SCCL is a limited company, wholly owned by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, SCCL is part of the NHS family. The management function is responsible for driving commercial objectives, managing the category towers and enabling services whilst overseeing continuous improvement.

About CaPA

The Clinical and Product Assurance (CaPA) team of NHS Supply Chain is key to ensuring that all the products we supply are safe and reflect the needs and preferences of all our NHS partners.

This includes working with our NHS partners such as NHS England, NHS Improvement and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to support the introduction of new technology and innovation into the supply chain that provides demonstrable benefits for our patients and users.

The CaPA team is responsible for three key areas of expertise:

•             Assurance framework

•             Patient safety

•             Innovation

For further information see here: https://www.supplychain.nhs.uk/about-us/clinical-and-product-assurance-capa/