More choice and sustainable sanitary products for NHS patients following feedback

26 January 2021

Hospital trusts and their patients will have access to an increased choice of sanitary products, including sustainable products, when a new NHS Supply Chain framework launches next month.

The new framework for Maternity, Obstetrics and Gynaecological Products, which includes sanitary products, starts on 1 February 2021.

During the development of the specification for the products, NHS Supply Chain engaged with clinicians, specialist networks and patients.

As a result of their feedback, for the first time it will include “green” sanitary products and trusts will also be able to supply tampons to patients as well as sanitary pads.

Sanitary towel

“A lot of information feeds into our listening process as we develop the framework and we take all this into consideration,” said Theresa Bowles from NHS Supply Chain: Rehabilitation, Disabled Services, Women’s Health and Associated Consumables, provided by Collaborative Procurement Partnership.

Feedback highlighted a desire for individually wrapped products and the inclusion of tampons and pads in a range of absorbance as well as a choice of sustainable products. As a result, the procurement and clinical teams then worked together with new and incumbent suppliers to find more sustainable and greener products which will be available on the new framework.

The Clinical and Product Assurance (CaPA) team at NHS Supply Chain also highlighted NHS England guidance on period poverty and the need to provide sanitary products to inpatients when required. Since the summer of 2019, all women and girls being cared for by the NHS are given, on request, appropriate sanitary products free of charge.

The CaPA team is key to ensuring that all NHS Supply Chain products are safe and reflect the needs and preferences of all NHS partners.

Fay Allen, NHS Supply Chain’s Product Assurance Specialist, said: “The launch of this framework highlights the exceptional work and collaboration that CaPA and Category Tower Service Providers undertake to ensure all stakeholders needs including patients and clinicians are accommodated where possible, and helps to build a greener NHS.”

The new framework will now offer:

  • Products in a range of absorbency and pack sizes.
  • A choice of tampons including with and without applicator (cardboard and plastic options) and products using less plastic.
  • A choice of pads including individually wrapped with products using less plastic (for example organic cotton, no super absorbers, corn-starch film backing and wrapper).

Theresa, a Clinical Engagement and Implementation Manager, said: “This is an important step in extending the choice available to people receiving care in hospitals, mental health units or who are receiving long-term care.  It is also great news that we now provide a sustainable choice with hopefully the chance to grow this further in the future.”

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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. Three enabling services for logistics, supporting technology and transactional services underpin the model.

Key benefits the new 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 called Supply Chain Coordination Limited (SCCL) went ‘live’. 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.