Blog: Medical supply chain creaking thanks to ‘covid and brexit’ – Liverpool Echo

The impact of Covid and Brexit has been blamed for an increasing squeeze on medical supplies including steel used for ligature knives and bottles for blood tests.

For around two weeks in September, the NHS trust that runs community blood testing in Liverpool, Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, cancelled all non-urgent tests due to a global shortage of bottles.

That shortage has now eased, but other areas of the trust’s operations are also beginning to feel the squeeze.

READ MORE: Scale of problems at troubled Liverpool Council exposed in new report

Mersey Care runs most of the area’s mental health services, including secure psychiatric hospitals, and staff are trained in the use of specialist knives to cut patients free from any ligature if they attempt suicide by hanging.

Global shortages of steel have caused issues replacing these knives.

The global supply chain has been hit due to several factors including shortages of lorry drivers and other specialised roles, port closures due to covid and rising fuel and shipping costs.

This week a meeting of the Mersey Care board of governors heard that problems are beginning to affect different areas.

A Safety Report described how the trust was attempting to deal with potential supply issues.

The board were told: “September saw the residual effects of COVID-19 and possibly Brexit on our supply chain, most acute with the blood bottle shortages early in the month, which did start to ease, although we are now potentially seeing supply issues in other areas such as medical devices, fuel and food costs.”

The trust has formed a “supply chain task and finish group” to keep an eye on the issue and escalate any problems to executives.

The problem with ligature knives also highlighted internal issues with how the knives were procured and maintained.

The report noted: “The shortage of steel impacted the supply of ligature knives to the Trust, which, in turn, highlighted differences in process across the three mental health divisions on procurement, training and maintenance of the knives.

“The different process did not only create a gap in controls for dealing with the procurement of knives, it also highlighted a serious patient safety concern on how knives were being maintained.”

The trust said it would look at standardising the procurement of a single type of knife.

Earlier this month hospitality and retail bosses were quizzed by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee over labour shortages in the food sector and supply chain.

MPs were told there are “no guarantees” over festive supplies to stores as firms were trying to cope with an “acute” lack of warehouse workers.

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