Two years on: a look at how Covid-19 impacted the healthcare supply chain sector

With just over two years since Covid-19 struck, the effects of the pandemic can still be felt across the logistics sector — particularly across the healthcare supply chain. From shortages in PPE and vital medical equipment to the challenges of vaccine logistics, Covid-19 left the industry with no choice but to remain resilient and solution-focused.

In light of restrictions ending across the UK, we reflect on how Covid-19 has impacted the healthcare supply chain sector.

Overcoming challenges

The Office for National Statistics shared that 16% of businesses reported global supply chain disruption, but without a doubt the starkness of the pandemic impact was most felt in the healthcare supply chain sector. With the NHS understaffed and over patient capacity, the lack of PPE and access to life-saving equipment like ventilators only served to exacerbate the situation. Suddenly highlighting the vulnerability of the medical supply chain, the logistics sector had to rethink strategies to ensure the NHS was equipped.

Industry practices, such as risk management and forward planning, had to be developed rapidly. McKinsey & Company reported that 59% of companies have adopted a new supply chain risk-management practice over the last 12 months. Here at Crown SDS, agility and responsiveness was our utmost priority, drawing upon our over 30 years’ experience to deliver time-critical logistics services.

Our 24-hour courier service also helped in instances of medical equipment failing — for example, if a critical care ventilator needed to be sent to an engineer, we could transport this to and from any destination in the UK to get this device back up in working order.

Streamlined planning processes were also strengthened by our technology driven innovation, so customers could track their deliveries in real-time and benefit from our efficient dynamic routing tool.

Navigating vaccine logistics

Following the initial Covid-19 waves and the challenges they brought, the global logistics industry was faced with another challenge, albeit a more hopeful one: navigating vaccine logistics. To ensure the mass immunisation against Covid-19 across the country and that the UK was able to meet its roll-out targets, this piece of the puzzle was vital.

One of the biggest challenges of vaccination distribution falls within cold chain management of the product during its storage and distribution, meaning logistics support from a cold chain specialist is a necessity. The term ‘cold chain’ refers to the cold temperature conditions which must be maintained during transportation to the point of administration, according to the manufacturer’s recommendation — usually ranging from +2˚C to +8˚C. 

Thanks to our efficient and well-planned operations, the Crown SDS fleet supported with both scheduled and ad hoc deliveries of medical equipment to a number of sites that had been adapted to support the vaccine roll-out, including pharmacies, medical centres and gyms. This equipment included sharps bins, medical screens, orthopaedic beds, desks and chairs, all of which were vital in ensuring centres could carry out vaccinations safely and efficiently.

In one month alone, Crown SDS even covered half a million miles in deliveries of vaccine items.

Adapting to a new normal

The last two years has certainly presented challenges, but the logistics sector has been adept at addressing these and, most importantly, has taken learnings from the pandemic that can be put into future practice.

Optimising planning routes and predicting & planning for risks is a key learning for the future and innovations in technology will continue to increase supply chain ability and strength.

Crown SDS is extremely proud of how we have managed to adapt and overcome, strengthening our services and supply chain to address the vulnerability of the healthcare sector during such an unprecedented time. We feel a sense of pride across in the industry, with Covid-19 showcasing the resilience of the sector.

Discover more from Crown SDS by reading the latest thoughts and views of our logistics leaders.

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