The UK may have left the European Union (EU) with a trade deal, but for those involved in Healthcare supply chains that does not mean it is back to business as usual.
Although the worst-case scenario of a no deal has been avoided, there are still challenges for those tasked with maintaining the continuous supply of products and consumables for their Trust.
To help you overcome these challenges, we have reviewed the latest legislation, identified what it means for your Trust’s supply chain and outlined what you need to do to respond effectively.
Navigating the UK’s new relationship with the EU
While the full impact of Brexit is still to become clear, what we are already seeing is that trade between the UK and the EU is no longer as frictionless as it once was.
The situation has been eased somewhat by the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) preparations for a no deal, but this has not fully insulated healthcare from the challenges that many other sectors are experiencing.
Some of the issues that are being felt most acutely across the industry include:
- Hidden complexity – The nuances of the UK/EU trade agreement are creating problems few Healthcare organisations have faced before. For example, how ‘country of origin’ rules could result in unexpected import tariffs and to which products these may apply.
- Fluctuating lead times– The lack of a mutual recognition of standards and safeguards has increased the required customs paperwork and declarations. This may result in longer lead times, higher costs, and the potential for delays on time-sensitive products, such as diagnostic equipment spare parts.
- Regional variations in policy – While the Northern Ireland Protocol has given the Healthcare industry a year’s reprieve, the long-term position on the status of Northern Ireland and what this means for the movement of medical equipment, devices, consumables and pharmaceuticals still remains unclear.
Although we expect further UK/EU negotiations to clarify some of these issues, it’s unlikely they will be resolved sufficiently to avoid the need for change in your supply chain over the coming year.
The increase in the use of UK-made products may help to create a more stable and secure supply chain. But it is still unclear whether this will create sufficient additional supply, at a viable cost, to make it an effective long-term solution for your Trust.
Our recommendations for Healthcare supply chain managers
Even though there is significant ambiguity about what the next 12 months could look like, by following a concerted plan of action it is possible for your Trust to reduce the risk of disruption.
There are several approaches you can take to strengthen your position and mitigate the challenges mentioned above. Our recommendations include:
- Treat the UK’s relationship with the EU as an ongoing discussion and make decisions based on the most up-to-date facts.
- Pool knowledge and resources with peers or regional colleagues to better understand any unexpected import tariffs and identify alternative suppliers.
- Make sure you have the appropriate tools in place to assess stock position across your operations and support management of fluctuating lead times.
- Keep your workforce informed. If your staff understand the risks, process changes and general trading landscape, they will be better placed to adapt to changes.
- Find partners to support you. Engaging with external specialists in Healthcare supply chain operations, including distribution partners who deal with this day-in-day-out, will put you in better stead for any arising challenges.
Future proofing your Trust
By applying these steps your organisation will have the agility to navigate through the new trading landscape and manage potential risks to ensure no unexpected shortages occur.
Although Brexit is not the only supply chain threat, addressing the weaknesses and challenges highlighted will ensure your organisation is well-positioned to manage and respond to any future issues.