NHS Supply Chain’s Suppliers Rise to the Coronavirus Challenge

26 June 2020

Hospital shelving with nurse
NHS Supply Chain continues to support the national response to COVID-19, and in partnership with suppliers, has ensured demand for medical supplies and products continues to be met during these critical times. Throughout recent months NHS Supply Chain has been receiving outstanding offers of support from many different suppliers. Highlighted below are some of these, ranging from scrubs to food donations and ICU beds.


Demand for scrubs has been unprecedented with five years’ worth of product being ordered in the first three months of the pandemic. NHS Supply Chain has been working with 12 different suppliers who have adapted and increased their scrubs production to meet demand.

An example of these is uniform manufacturer Alexandra, which over the past two months has increased their supply of scrub sets, and sourced millions of extra medical supplies for hospitals and care homes.

In a matter of weeks, we have literally turned the business around from 80 per cent of production being tunics and trousers to 95 per cent of what we make being scrubs.Tina Graves, senior director of commercial sales and business operations, Alexandra
This is an example of fantastic partnership working, with the team at Alexandra responding to the latest NHS requirements and seeking alternative suppliers both here in the UK and overseas.Kevin Chidlow, Category Tower Director, NHS Supply Chain: Hotel Services

We also received invaluable support from Meltemi & Alsico UK, who in a single day were able to despatch 100,000 scrubs to NHS Trusts, GP practices and care home groups across the country from their warehouse in Preston.

Clinical waste bags and aprons

Berry bpi, a long-standing supplier of clinical waste sacks to NHS Supply Chain have helped meet the increased demand for PPE by demonstrating innovation and agility, and adapting their manufacturing facilities and processes in four of their UK factories to produce gowns in just three weeks. By early May, 200,000 special apron-style gowns, and over six million standard disposable aprons were being produced weekly. Berry bpi are continuing to put in place a sustainable domestic supply route for these types of products.

Food Donations

NHS Supply Chain: Food has been working with some of our framework suppliers to donate food and drink to front-line NHS workers. So far over 346,350 units of food and drink worth £187,000 have been generously donated to 123 NHS Hospitals across England. LR Suntory, Gate Gourmet, Britvic, UpBeat, Coca Cola, Unilever, Hippeas and PROPER have got involved in providing free cold bottled drinks, crisps, snacks, and other treats.

I have seen clinical staff in tears when we deliver the products to the wards, from a biscuit to an Easter egg to drinks, it is great, keep them coming!Andy Jones, Head of Facilities, Birmingham Women's and Children's NHS Foundation Trust

ICU beds

Working alongside the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and NHS Improvement and other organisations, NHS Supply Chain played its part in ensuring the NHS was prepared for a possible surge of Covid-19 patients in hospitals.

NHS Supply Chain: Rehabilitation, Disabled Services, Women’s Health and Associated Consumables tower along with seven suppliers, who already supplied into NHS Supply Chain, significantly uplifted their bed manufacturing to help stand-up the NHS Nightingale Hospitals.

Several suppliers provided assistance over and above what they were asked to do. This included:

  • Linet, Talley Group, Herida Healthcare, Hillrom and Felgains supplying beds and mattresses to the NHS Nightingale Hospitals nationally.
  • OSKA designing and manufacturing a bed specifically for the hospitals.
  • Arjo providing a team of engineers to install the first 200 beds at NHS Nightingale London.
  • Herida Healthcare’s logistics and engineering teams ensuring the installation of beds ran smoothly.
  • Medstrom Healthcare’s teams installing beds from other providers after supplying and installing their own beds.
Our suppliers rose to the many challenges that COVID-19 presented and provided fantastic support to the NHS through increased manufacturing, exceptional logistics, customer and technical support.
It was this commitment and partnership working that enabled the NHS Nightingale Hospitals to be set up in a matter of days so that they were ready for operational use if required.
Chris Hassall, Tower Director, NHS Supply Chain: Rehabilitation, Disabled Services, Womens Health and Associated Consumables